Written by VSTE Board member, Matt Caratachea (@TechWithMatt)
When emerging technologies break into education many educators who love innovative education—especially those reading a blog post like this—jump at the opportunity to figure out how we can get these tools into the hands of students and teachers. Virtual Reality (VR) is no different. As the cost of VR decreases and the technology becomes increasingly user-friendly it is sure to make its way into schools even more than it is today.
Integrating VR experiences into the classroom isn’t necessarily new, tools such as ClassVR have existed as well as immersive experiences embedded in popular platforms such as Nearpod. However, VR technology is rapidly changing and this is opening new opportunities for education. With platforms such as Meta Quest, HTC Vive, and Pico coming down in price and ease of use increasing, educators can focus on designing more hands-on and interactive learning experiences for students. In Goochland County Public Schools we have been leveraging the Meta Quests with our high school and middle school students and teachers and it has been very successful.
Our incredible Instructional Technology Coaches and School Librarians have been working with teachers to lead with the learning instead of the tool. This focus on learning intentions first has helped teachers in working with the coaches and librarians to foster meaningful learning experiences with VR. The Instructional Technology Coach at Goochland High School has worked with every department at her school to meaningfully integrate VR into learning experiences. AP Psychology students researched VR as a tool for therapy and experienced various apps focused on mental health. Following the project, the students presented to the school counseling department on how VR could help the students at their school. Students taking PE teamed up with statistics students to use heart rate monitors to compare and contrast working out in VR and traditional PE class. In addition to working with pre-made apps our CTE students have been creating apps using Unreal Engine. 3D Animation and VR students learn how to use the same tools as professionals to create experiences that can be used by teachers and students in other content areas.
We have learned quite a bit during our time integrating VR into teaching and learning in Goochland County. However, there are multiple ways to approach using VR in K-12 contexts, so this is not the only way to approach the work. The first thing we knew we needed to address was the management of the headsets. Since we use Meta Quests we needed to find a way to limit access to the app store. Initially students were able to download any free app they could find on the app store. We also needed to find a way to limit the apps students could choose from on a lesson by lesson basis. There are a few tools that address both of these needs, but we went with ArborXR. Using ArborXR teachers can be confident that students are in the app they should be and are not able to download anything they would like. We also quickly learned that we needed to find a charging solution for the VR headsets. Charging the headsets was turning into a headache for our teachers, Instructional Technology Coaches, and School Librarians. We found locking charging carts that have multiple large shelves that work great for our headsets. As the technology continues to evolve and grow it will be exciting how we can integrate the tools meaningfully into K-12 teaching and learning. I can’t wait to see where things go from here!