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!

There’s a time and a place

Using technology in the classroom – The Why?

We had a visit after school today from our Headteacher who was checking out our learning environments. Talks went in tangents somewhat, all good stuff, of course 🙂 and we briefly spoke about the use of iPads in class. It got me thinking again about something we sometimes can lose sight of. Why do we use iPads in the classroom?

There are many contrasting views on this topic but for me, it’s really a no brainer. Technology in the classroom, when used effectively, transforms learning. ‘When used effectively’ being what’s important here. I have seen first hand, staff being handed a brand new, shiny device and not being given a single bit of training on how to use it.

‘But it’s just an iPad, everyone knows how to use an iPad!’ 

This statement is true to some degree. However, like my 4X4 car, which on the road is easy, but if I don’t learn how to use the specific controls for the differential lock for example or the descending speed control, then I’m going to get stuck in plenty of dunes out here. Which, admittedly I have… But it’s the same with the iPad is it not? A bit like our brains. We only use a fraction of its true potential! That’s why training in integrating technology into lessons is so important, which is led by good pedagogy.

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Image: Edsurge.com

We use the SAMR model during our training sessions. There are many different versions of this but I like this one in particular as it is both child and adult friendly. Pretty straight forward. Am I using the device to replace something else; a book for example? Or, am I doing things with the iPad that could not have been done without it? That’s where the goodies are, the magic stuff.

Fundamentally, transformational learning does not, and should not, take place in every lesson through the use of a device. Everything has its time and place and the use of the iPad is no exception. Being led by good pedagogy and planning is key. Good lessons that have been planned thoroughly can have devices integrated into them to make learning move on to that next level.

A favourite success story of mine is of a girl a few years ago that had autistic tendencies and really struggled to write. She did however, have an imagination like no other. Writing was laborious and largely a waste of time, but by using the iPad, she was able to use the dictaphone tool to produce content. She would go walking around the school and take the people that she met on the corridors on the adventure with her. They became her characters for this particular story. Her use of vocabulary and the cohesive devices she used were just brilliant. With a bit of help editing her content when she had finished, resulted in a great piece of work. Editing was easy as she had the hard part done, getting her ideas onto paper. Furthermore, she wanted to take it further and publish her book using Bookcreator. This for me, is using the iPad for one of its most basic functions to make the curriculum accessible for a particular child. Quite transformational I think too.

Going forward, I need to be more mindful as to how I get the children to use their devices. What I do know is, that with a small bit of planning and collaboration, the effective use of devices in the classroom results in transformational learning that would not have been possible without it. And it really is quite special when you see the journey take place. Don’t forget about the ‘Why?’

Interested in finding out more? Feel free to get in touch. 

 

Life, as we never knew it…

Educating children on device management

I’m pretty excited. A busy couple of weeks coming up at work where we are doing things in the classroom that we’ve never done before. What we’ve never been able to do before. Our MDM (Mobile Device Management) trial is starting this week and next week a buddy of mine and I are presenting at the second ever JESS Digital Summit in Dubai. What we are trialling in our class is what we are looking to present next week so it’s all happening pretty quick.

Apple Classroom is how we currently administer how children use their iPads in class. It’s something Apple have really done a good job on and it is aiding how we use devices in class more seamless than ever before. There is a danger here tho I think. The power of an MDM server and the use of Apple Classroom enables us to dictate what children do with their devices while they are on the school network, which sounds great. I can’t help but feel there is a danger that teachers may see this as a means to ‘police’ iPad usage in class and in turn, have a long term negative impact on our kids.

It’s a bit like giving a person a fish or teaching them how to fish. There is that comfort element that we can eradicate any improper usage of devices when they are on the school network so it is imperative that teachers educate children on proper device management and the dangers of improper use. There have been recent articles out there that highlight the negative impacts technology is having on children, and adults, due to addictions to devices and social media. I came across this on Twitter and think it’s great. It’s going up in my classroom. DQ image

Image: World Economic Forum

This is stuff that needs to be taught now and in a classroom with an MDM or Classroom or equivalent, there is the danger that these skills won’t get taught because children can be protected whilst on terra firma. As wonderful as technology is, we need to ensure that we are teaching our kids the importance of device management for a healthy body and mind. Oh, and we may need to act upon it ourselves too…

It’s time we all learn how to fish.