Using virtual reality in schools is easier than you think. Here are some examples

Virtual reality in the classroom may sound complicated to master, expensive to implement, and generally more effort than it’s worth. But those are misconceptions, said two educators who regularly use the technology in their classrooms.

Here’s how the duo – who used to work in the same Texas school district and now present with another colleague as the “Edumillennials”-use VR to teach social studies, science and more at different grade levels. Most of the resources they listed are free for teachers and don’t require expensive glasses.

Students can travel to a park across the country or trek across South Asia

Megan Puckett’s High School Social Studies Students Using Google Earth Voyager to create their own itineraries for South Asia. They have to make a packing list, write an overview of their trip and pick out some historical and cultural sites to visit.

In teaching about the Chicano movement—a civil rights movement by people of Mexican descent that took place in the 1960s and 1970s—Puckett will teach her students through Google Arts and Culture, and ask students to identify three major themes they see in the graffiti artwork there. Located in California, Puckett teaches at Bridgeland High School in Cyprus, Texas, near Houston. The technology allows its students to witness the lasting impact of a historic campaign and understand that “art is an expressive movement that can be found everywhere,” Puckett said.

During a unit at the early British settlement in Jamestown, Virginia, Puckett Google Street View to take her students to the modern city. They will have to find out what the weather is like and what the settlers may have been wearing. When Puckett did this activity in October, the students were surprised to see that the leaves had changed to fall colors. “I thought that only happened in the cinema,” said one of them, Puckett recalled.

These tools aren’t just for social studies, Puckett explained. For example, a math teacher might use: 360 cities– overlooking the street and other panoramic images – to determine, for example, how many people in a block in New York City are wearing short or long sleeves. An elementary school teacher could have children determine what they would see from the vantage point of a particular lamppost in the city and then write a story about what is happening on the street from the lamppost’s perspective.

Connect with a scientist or play a guessing game with a class in a different time zone

Kendre Perry’s students in the Winchendon school district of Baldwin, Massachusetts, have visited national parks without leaving their desk chairs due to the Center for Interactive Learning and Collaborationwhich offers students the chance to visit the Great Barrier Reef, the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, Gateway National Park in St. Louis and much more for free.

Perry is also a fan of “Skype a Scientist,” enabling classrooms to virtually connect with an expert specializing in climate change, genetics, vaccines and topics. Lecturers can indicate what they are looking for or browse a list of scientists. Educators can even search for scientists with certain demographics, including race and sexual orientation, or find scientists who have graduated from the first generation. That way, if a lot of students in a class have a certain background, they can “see themselves in a scientist,” Perry said.

Another good, free tool: Mystery Skype. Students connect with another class in a remote geographic area via Zoom, and each class must ask yes or no questions to find out where the other children are. For example, when Perry was teaching in Texas, her students interacted with a class in North Dakota and found they were quite bundled up, even in early spring. That was an indication that they were not in a warm climate. Teachers can find other teachers to use Mystery Skype with on Twitter. Other tools that allow students to connect with children elsewhere: Whereby, Zoom and Skype.

If these tools are so cheap and easy to use, why aren’t more teachers using them?

They’re overwhelmed, Puckett said.

“I feel like a lot of teachers will look at something, and they’ll say, I don’t need another tool. This is stressful,” Puckett said. Teachers are more receptive when given “a quick, tangible thing that can be part of a lesson” or a prompt, rather than “building an entire 45-minute lesson around it.”

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