Virtual Reality, Is this the Future of Education?
The use of virtual reality in the classroom is taking off having been used for years in universities and vocational schools as a key learning tool. And now we find this technology filtering down to secondary and elementary schools.
Today, I experienced what is perhaps the future of education. As a kid, do you remember playing with a View-Master stereoscope replete with a cache of rotary slides? How times have changed!
Original View Master
The District recently allocated funds toward the purchase of 30 virtual reality headsets and accompany Google Pixel devices. The equipment was purchased in the spring of 2019 and set up during the summer. Today I had the opportunity to visit Mr. Faiss’ sixth grade social studies class at Kennett Middle School where this technology was recently deployed.
Using the Google Expeditions application (which can be downloaded for free), students are able to experience a three-dimensional educational experience, which not only transcends the classroom but can also span the globe and even venture into outer space.
Prior to the start of class, I got a first-hand demonstration of virtual reality. After putting the View-Master up to my eyes, Mr. Faiss took me on a virtual tour of Paris. From a vantage point high above, I could see in three-dimension almost every aspect of the city, from the Seine running through the heart of it, to the Eiffel Tower and government buildings, and lastly its highly urbanized areas. Throughout this tour, Mr. Faiss narrated a social studies lesson focusing on these areas. As he highlighted an area, I was able to follow an arrow and zoom into the area being discussed. I must say, the experience was visually stunning, and I felt fully immersed in the experience.
The Student Experience
As his class funneled into his room, Mr. Faiss had placed one View-Master on each student’s desk, and I could sense the excitement from his students. Today’s lesson centered on the Industrial Revolution. Prior to using the VR equipment, Mr. Faiss showed the students a short introductory video. As students donned the View-Masters, the lesson transitioned from agrarian England all the way through automated manufacturing both in England and in the United States.
Throughout the lesson, students were engaged, and I witnessed a lively interaction between Mr. Faiss and his students. Students were actually able to ‘see’ England in the pre-industrialized era and follow this vein of European and American history through mechanization, urbanization, and into the present-day. Throughout the lesson, as Mr. Faiss focused on certain key topics, students were able to train their VR on the same topic. As the lesson progressed, it became more of a question-and-answer session testing students’ knowledge relating to what they were viewing and how it relates to modern society. All in all, a very interesting lesson.
By: Steve Rinehart, KCSD Technology Department