So recently we had the opportunity to create three full classroom sets of virtual reality goggles and iPod Touches. The kits consist of 28 ViewMaster Virtual Reality Goggles, 28 iPod Touches (16GB), two large USB charging stations, and the extra discs for the ViewMaster apps.
The goal of these VR kits was to help extend the lesson, engage the students and allow for experiences that we could not bring the student to (so instead we brought to it virtually). Today was the first day that we had the kits out in the classrooms. The original goals of the kits were met. The students were definitely engaged, the teacher had to pull the goggles out a few kids hands. The lesson was extended, we could not do this without the kits. And for most of the students, they had an experience that they had have had before.
So that last part got me thinking, part of the reason that gaps exist is to due to the lack of experiences. By giving students numerous experiences, family trips, vacation, sporting event trips, etc they learn by doing. The lesson that we did today was about why do people go underwater in the ocean. Out of the 60 students that were in the class today that experienced the VR goggles only a small portion had ever been to the ocean, let alone go under the water.
This school has our highest number of socio-economically disadvantaged students and unfortunately they have some large gaps in their students’ sub-groups.
So again, can we harness the power of virtual reality to give those students the experiences they are lacking to be able in turn to close some of those gaps? One day of using the VR kits is definitely no way enough to tell. But we are going to keep trying.
Imagine the number of students that have never been to the historical sites we discuss in social studies class, or imagine the students that have never been in a real science lab, or imagine all of the things that you teach in your classroom that we show students pictures and we explain but they have never really experienced. How will that affect their learning? And how will this change the teacher as well?
And how will this change the teacher as well? With Virtual Reality, we are no long limited to field trips or static pictures. We can now go anywhere in the world with Google Street View VR, walk around the Statue of Liberty with ViewMaster Destination, shrink down to fit inside of a cell with InCell VR, watch new videos from the Discovery Channel in VR. The VR world is limited to the number of apps that are available and that number is growing every day.
So back to the question at hand, can virtual reality help to close the gap? If you believe (as I do) that part of the gap was created due to a lack of experiences then yes definitely VR can help. We are going to keep exploring and using tools and toys to help improve our teaching and learning.