By: Elliott Lawrence, OSU Extension Educator, 4-H Youth Development, Lucas County
Today’s world is full of new learning technology resources. Some of these new technologies are geared for entertainment purposes only, but many new VR technologies are designed for the classroom environment. Virtual reality (VR) can be both, but let’s focus on how it can be used in the classroom or club environment. Over the last decade, youth programming has seen an increase in regulations to ensure a safe learning environment. Additional regulations are triggered when new learning technologies are used to teach youth. However, there are many tools and controls developed to regulate the student’s learning experience. For example, an educator can restrict which apps are available on devices at any given time, can lockout devices during instruction time, or can mirror the student’s VR experience on an educator’s screen to ensure the students are following instruction. VR is an immersive interactive experience that connects classrooms and students to knowledge, augmented constructs, and 360-degree worlds that are well worth adapting our teaching methods to following a few additional regulations.
What is Virtual Reality?
Virtual reality is defined as a simulation of a three-dimensional image or environment that can be interacted with in a seemingly real or physical way by a person using special electronic equipment, such as a helmet with a screen inside or gloves fitted with sensors. However, having a headset is not necessary to explore VR and 360-degree experiences. Students can use a phone, a tablet, or a computer to move around and explore a virtual space either by moving the mobile device or moving the computer mouse to shift the screen’s perspective. This allows some flexibility between technologies available in a classroom at any given time. Perhaps the educator only has limited headsets, using a mix of headsets and mobile devices is an easy solution.
Below is a few second clips of a child exploring the sensory playground at COSI in Columbus, Ohio. Anyone that watches can virtually experience what it’s like to climb through the play structure from all points of view at any given time as the 360-video plays out. This effect, like reality, gives the observe some choices in what direction and where to turn, lending several unique experiences to play out simultaneously.
Video: COSI sensory playground in Columbus, Ohio. Recorded by Phoenix Jacquet at age 9. Retrieve from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kNDbEaTaCbw&feature=youtu.be
Or allow your students to sit inside of an all-electric Chevy Bolt.
Video: 2019 Chevy Bolt Interior, created by Meghan Thoreau. Retrieve from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NqfB2Z0snC4&feature=youtu.be
There is a wide variety of ways to use virtual reality technology. Educators can also document or allow share student progress.
There is also an increase in social media sharing platforms that are allowing 360-video more accessible, such as, YouTube, Facebook, and Google Expeditions. These platforms allow the user visibility in how to experience these 360-videos, immersively wearing a headset or externally through a mobile device.
Google Expeditions is a free app that allows the teacher to have control over what the students see in their VR Headsets or mobile devices. There are over 900 Expeditions to choose from ranging from the International Space Station to a Dairy Farm in Lancaster County Pennsylvania. While the virtual field trips are self-guided most of them take 30-45 minutes to complete. In Google Expeditions all of the content that is needed for facilitating the field trip is contained in the app. There is no need to research the area before, all of the talking points and discussion topics are placed in the “expedition”.
The resources that you need are the following:
- A teacher device- this can be an iPad or tablet
- Explorer devices- this can be their own smartphone or their parent’s smartphone;
- A router*
* Does not need access to the internet, it just needs to be powered on for the explorer devices and the teacher device to connect to.)
Virtual Field Trips
The virtual field trip is an endless opportunity for exploration of the world in the comfort and safety of your own meeting place. It is endless where you can take your young explorers to and watch them get excited about a new place they have never been to.
Educators can also use Tour Creator, which allows students to become the creatures through uploading, editing, and sharing their own Google Expedition experience to their classmates or to the world.
Video Tips, How to conduct a Virtual Field Trip
Link to picture to use: https://unsplash.com/photos/l862hX_FET8.
 McMillan K, Flood K, Glaeser R. Virtual reality, augmented reality, mixed reality, and the marine conservation movement. Aquatic Conserv: Mar Freshw Ecosyst.2017;27(S1):162–168. Retrieved from: https://doi.org/10.1002/aqc.2820
Peer-Reviewed: Sally McClaskey, OSU Extension Program Manager, Education & Marketing. She develops and directs educational programs at the Nationwide & Ohio Farm Bureau 4-H Center.