Virtual and Augmented Reality in the Classroom: A 5-Step Guide

1. Gather the hardware (without breaking the bank)

Currently, Google Cardboard is one of the more popular offerings schools are using. You can find cardboard headsets students can use with their phones for fairly cheap online. And the current profusion of smartphones can help with acquiring the technology without paying a hefty price! Most VR activities can be structured to involve small groups, so students can share devices if needed.

DIY! Does cost still pose a potential problem? Get your students on board the craft train, and have them bring cardboard from home to DIY their own headsets! Check out this tutorial on how to make your own “Google Cardboard”.

2. Have a blast learning the software!

Once you have the hardware, get ready to experience the virtual world at your fingertips! Take some time to look through the apps available to you (Orbulus, Trench Experience VR, Cardboard, Cool Tour, and Ryot, to name a few), as well as 360 videos on sites like YouTube. Here are some places to start exploring:

Connect to current events with the New York Times VR app.
Take your students around—and out of—this world with Nearpod or Cooltour.
 Provide access to museums students would not be able to see in person.
 Go scuba diving or ride a race car on Les Mans.

Can’t get enough inspiration? Here’s another list with more apps and ideas!

3. Set Some Ground Rules

There’s no doubt about it: VR/AR are cool. Bringing VR/AR into the classroom can generate energy and excitement. But, it can also invite chaos without proper scaffolding and expectations. Prior to using VR in your classroom, be sure to practice and gain comfortability in using the hardware and software. Develop clear guidelines on behavior and expectations, covering them before passing out any technology.

As a side note: consider using VR/AR as an opportunity to incorporate more digital literacy and online safety in your classroom!

4. Start by extending your curriculum…

Begin by using VR as an extension for the content you’re already addressing.

Studying WWII in history class? Use the Trench app mentioned above to show students the items a soldier may find as they’re in the trenches.
Studying different ecosystems in science class? Have students compare what they see in two different experiences.
Studying another language? Have students “visit” a spot in that country, and use that language to describe the sights they see.

Current shifts in educational pedagogies and standards involve engaging students in their learning by having them DO rather than passively “receive”. VR/AR support this push towards allowing students more experiential ways of learning.

5. …continue by pushing your students to create, rather than simply consume!

Put your students in the driver’s seat and get them creating their own adventures! There are numerous apps that provide software for students to create VR experiences of their own.

Have students create a 360° video scene from a novel you’re reading. Create a guided tour of special locales in your neighborhood or areas in your school. Not only will they be going through content from your course, they’ll also begin to learn how to create these items.

Stepping into the Future with Virtual and Augmented Reality

This is just the tip of iceberg with VR/AR: the more you utilize it, the more opportunities you’ll uncover.  Along with these opportunities, challenges will certainly also present themselves. One question that must be addressed is how to move past the “cool factor” of VR/AR and reframe the technology as more of a classroom tool rather than a fad. Either way, it looks like VR/AR are here to stay: the next step will be to see how far it can take our classrooms!

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