The immersive nature of virtual reality brings depth to educational content by engaging the senses and allowing exploration to a degree that would be difficult to duplicate within the confines of a classroom, making it an ideal catalyst for curiosity and true learning. So what is VR and how does it work?

On Thursday 16th of November, I ran a TTT on virtual and augmented reality. We started by engaging teachers in a Google Expedition of the Great Barrier Reef. Google Expeditions is a virtual reality teaching tool that lets you lead or join immersive virtual trips all over the world — get up close with historical landmarks, dive underwater with sharks, even visit outer space! There are currently over 700 expeditions available free for use. I have since found this incredible resource which documents details of all currently available expeditions. It is updated regularly and includes links to lesson plans created by teachers around the world. For those of you interested in running an Expedition in your class, browse this resource and then touch base with me about the expedition you are looking to run. Alternatively, provide me with a brief outline of your unit and I’ll do the research for you. We have 20 VR headsets for use – students will need to use their own phone with Google Expeditions app installed.

Last week I assisted Brian Germain in running two expeditions in his High School Psychology class. The theme was the nervous system so we began with a VR tour of the brain stem, limbic system, cerebrum and cerebellum, a neutron and synaptic transmission. What I enjoyed most, was the second expedition, to Everest, where Brian asked students a series of thought provoking questions, which has them thinking about the science they’d just explored. e.g. standing in the cold at base camp, what part of the brain is responsible for…? What a great way to make content meaningful.

There are so many great VR apps out there – Discovery VR, Sites in VR, New York Times VR and YouTube 360 just to name a few. There are also some excellent iOS apps for VR purposes.

During the TTT we also spent some time looking at augmented reality (AR). AR is the layering of virtual information over the physical world, or reality, using software and devices. Take a look at this Ikea Concept Kitchen to see AR in action!

One of the most impressive educational apps I came across when looking for AR content was Quiver Education. Essentially, students are provided with one of the colouring in sheets and then, using the app, bring their work to life. The Quiver app is free, however, the Quiver Education app (which is now available on the MS/HS Library iPads) does cost. Quiver Education provides the same magical augmented reality coloring experience, but with a greater focus on educational content than the awesome Quiver App. During the TTT, teachers attempted an AR quiz using a plant cell, explored the habitat of the Kiwi bird though sound and watched as a volcano erupted in front of their eyes!

If you are interested in introducing some AR or VR material into your classroom, don’t hesitate to contact me or any member of the Ed Tech team!

Laura