By: Kendall Hunt RPD with contributions from the development team of By Design Science Grades 1-8.
As any parent or teacher can attest to, today’s students are members of the “digital generation” and spend much of their time involved in new forms of media enabled by technology, from social media sites to iPad games and mobile phone apps. Virtual reality (VR) technology presents exciting opportunities for teachers to capitalize on students’ interest in all things digital through the use of educational VR applications in the classroom.
Realizing this potential to expand learning opportunities, Kendall Hunt has partnered with VictoryVR to offer a state-of-the-art virtual reality science curriculum that opens the world of learning to endless possibilities. With content correlated to the By Design Science program and the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), students can have a 360-degree interactive experience that allows them to fully engage with the material. With VR technology, students explore locations that enhance their learning while reinforcing grade-appropriate science standards in meaningful and memorable ways.
Among the benefits of educational VR in the classroom are the following:
· Student engagement—VR immediately grabs and sustains student attention and enhances student motivation.
· With VR, learning becomes an active rather than passive process; actively learned material is better understood and retained.
· The VR experience is fully immersive, minimizing the distractions that sometimes interrupt student learning and optimizing students’ ability to concentrate on the material.
· VR involves different learning modalities and thus is suited to all types of learning styles (e.g., bodily-kinesthetic, visual).
· Through the virtual field trips available in the VictoryVR curriculum, students are able to explore material in ways never before possible—from studying the use of telescopes through a virtual tour of the Astrophysical Research Consortium 3.5M telescope, a site off-limits to the public, to investigating cellular-level science through an interactive tour of a human cell.
· Specific to the VictoryVR curriculum, STEM infusion throughout the material allows teachers and parents to determine students’ strengths and interests in specific areas, assisting students in long-term decision making related to coursework and future career opportunities.
· Before introducing VR to students, become familiar with the use of the headset and content navigation by exploring the modules so that you can address common student questions.
· Plan your classroom time to accommodate VR—depending on the number of headsets available, 5 to 10 students will be able to complete the VR modules at one time. Thus, VR activities are best scheduled during a block of small-group time, with groups rotating between VR use and other small-group tasks.
· Although each student engages with the VR content individually, small-group and large-group learning and activity formats should take place after all students have completed a module so that the benefits of group work and collaboration can be achieved in connection with the material. For example, after students have finished the ecosystems module, small groups of students can collaborate on a poster presentation describing a selected ecosystem, synthesizing the knowledge gained from the VR experience.
The potential role for VR in the classroom is huge in terms of the opportunities it offers—from touring far-off locales that students may never be able to visit to being interactively immersed in the microscopic world of the cell. As student interest and motivation soar with VR, their learning and retention of material are greatly increased; indeed, VR may be the learning modality of the future.