Our World in VR… Virtually

Exploring the world from your classroom

It’s not just a fad… Virtual Reality (VR) is soon to become part and parcel of how we deliver and create content in the classroom and beyond. It doesn’t have to break the bank either! There are incredible devices on the market at the moment that really are taking things to the next level, HTC Vive for example. However, basic VR headsets that can cater for smartphones are on the market for as little as £5 (GBP) and can be used to a great effect in your child’s learning experience.

Here are a few things we are doing at JESS Arabian Ranches that can be implemented into your classroom sooner and easier than you think.

Google Expeditions

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Google just know how to do things well. Their well established App Google Expeditions allows teachers and children to go on a self directed journey to so many places in the world and beyond. The array of expeditions available means that there is definitely a suitable tour that will cater for your needs. Whilst the experience is best using headsets, an iPad, iPhone or tablet will suffice. Here are a few clips of how we used Google Expeditions to explore the tropical rainforest.

Video 1 Video 2

Youtube 360 videos

Children using Youtube 360

Youtube (Also owned by Google) has an ever increasing number of incredible 360 videos that can be accessed with pretty much any device. Not exactly virtual reality, but an engaging experience that allows children to connect with a topic or story. We use this a lot because it is just so easy and effective. Again, as part of our Rainforest topic, we used a 360 video of a tour through the rainforest that allowed children to immerse themselves in an environment that we were asking them to write about as part of their descriptive, writing challenge. The results were fantastic! A huge contributing factor to the success of the children’s’ writing was the fact they had a new connection to their topic. There was context.

See for yourself just how powerful these videos are and what our kids had to say. Credit to Steve Bambury for piecing this video together using footage from Conservation International (CI)

HTC Vive

An incredible piece of kit. Amazingly, it is early days for this machine and it really is only getting warmed up. We have been fortunate enough to have Steve and Ciaran Kelly (IT teacher at JESS) to run some sessions for us on our topics on The Rainforest as well as The Titanic. These sessions are something really special as children are fully immersed in an experience where they have the ability to engage with the content. Our most effective use of the Vive to date has been for our Titanic topic were we have used the kit to engage children with their experience to help them write a diary entry as a passenger on board The Titanic. Again, what this experience does for the children, is give them context.

Following on from a short story about Eva Hart and her families eventual embarkment on board the unsinkable ship, the children then witness what life was like before and after the great ship sank. As well as this, they can explore the wreck and interact with items that they find. A truly memorable experience, and again one, that impacted our children’s writing immensely. Take a look at another video that Steve has put together for us using content from Immersive Education on the HTC Vive. 

We also had some fun with the Amazon Odyssey from Vive studios. Whilst this is also a powerful, immersive experience, it’s one that I think is suited to the younger years. A great game where children explore a rainforest to get them engaged in their topic. Here’s a sneak peak. Once again, credit to Steve for piecing this together for us.

All sounds a bit much?

It really isn’t. I’ve had many people question me about the hassles involved in running a set of headsets for a class experience and I cannot reiterate how accessible most of this content is. For schools that run a BYOD (Bring your own device) or 1:1 device program, so much of this can be started tomorrow! Furthermore, at JESS, we are looking at creating our own content to share with the wider world. From live lesson streaming to 360 recordings of events in school, the world of VR is only going to expand and develop to such an extent that it will become part of our every day teaching.

Embrace the future, it’s virtually upon us!

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