I can remember my first experience of Virtual Reality back in the early 1990s, standing in the middle of Keddies Department store in Southend with a huge headset on, moving round a very blocky dungeon. Sadly the technology just wasn’t quite there and apart from Sci-Fi movies (Lawnmower Man anyone?) – VR vanished.
But 30 years later, it’s back, and the technology you need to make it work is sitting in your pocket right now – your mobile phone!
At the Samsung Digital Classroom event I attended a few weeks ago, there was a great session from Dan and Sophie at Peterhouse School about how they are making use of Google Cardboard and Virtual Reality with their children.
Virtual Reality is now something that can be brought into your classroom without breaking the bank.
What do you need?
As well as Google Cardboard apps, you can also view special 360 Degree videos on YouTube. You can view these on a regular screen – and pan and move around, but these will also become 3D on a Cardboard device. Check out this video of the Mythbusters.
You will also need a viewer. You can buy cheap cardboard versions (check Amazon, or go here) or more expensive plastic headsets that are a little more robust.
Whichever version you get, you’ll need to insert a mobile phone (or iPod touch) to act as the screen. More expensive all-in-one versions are also coming onto the market, which won’t require a phone.
The phone screen splits in two, and feeds a slightly different image to the left and right eyes which gives the 3D effect. The accelerometers in the phone detect movement as you move your head around and adjust the view – so you can look all around, above and below you.
The overall effect is an amazingly immersive experience. Peterhouse school was very enthusiastic about the use of VR as a device to stimulate language skills. Children could quickly be transported to another part of the world, and describe their experiences to the rest of the class.
The drawback of this technology is that it’s a single user experience – you are going to need lots of these devices to work with a whole class and costwise that’s probably out of the reach of schools right now. But using with small groups, rotating use through a lesson, could be an option.
Quick tip – have you got any old phones lying around? If you’ve just upgraded, set up an older phone to act as your Google Cardboard device. This avoids having to give children your precious mobile!
So how could you use this in the classroom? Here’s a couple of ideas:
Virtual Guided Field Trips
The Google Expeditions App 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!
Built for the classroom and small group use, Google Expeditions allows a teacher acting as a “guide” to lead classroom-sized groups of “explorers” through collections of 360° and 3D images while pointing out interesting sights along the way. (More here)
(Do please take them on real trips occasionally though!)
Virtual Reality Stories
The New York Times provides the NYT-VR app that provides immersive VR stories. Experience stories reported by award-winning journalists, all told in an immersive, 360-degree video experience.
Sketchfab (App Store / Google Play) is a library of 3d artifacts. Teleport yourself to Rome, hold a beating heart, or walk among dinosaurs. Open Sketchfab VR with Google Cardboard to discover a showcase of explorations through remote places, fantastic creatures, game worlds, cultural heritage, science and other wonders.
Explore a City in Google Street View
Less structured that Google Expeditions, you can explore anywhere in Google Streetview (iOS /Android) using Cardboard and turn it into a more immersive experience. Walk the streets of Paris or Barcelona, visit the Coliseum or the Vatican. Great for language, geography or history teachers.
Ride a rollercoaster
Experience the real life sensation of a 3D roller coaster and an exciting environment with your mobile virtual reality headset for Google Cardboard or any mobile virtual reality headset. (iOS / Android)
There are plenty of 360 videos on YouTube that work great with Google Cardboard.
- Go on an expedition to the heart of an active volcano
- Visit the Large Hadron Collider
- Visit Mecca and Medina
- Dive with dolphins
- Fly on the back of Pete’s Dragon
Of course, they don’t need to be in 3D – but the experience becomes more immersive if they are. Children can experience these situations and use them to develop language skills as they describe what they are experiencing.
You can also now buy 360 degree cameras and make your own videos!
So how else are you using Google Cardboard in the classroom? Share your ideas in the comments!