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Imagine being able to transfer your entire classroom to a different place, time or world; imagine being able to simulate learning experiences and heighten senses; imagine being able to break down the barriers of travel, creating a smaller world but gaining a greater understanding of it? Virtual Reality (VR) is an incredibly powerful learning tool, which although still developing, can have a monumental impact on education.

With apps such as Google Expeditions, Arts and Culture, Discovery VR, Cardboard Camera and Titans of Space, etc. students can be placed into media, experiencing resources like never before with immediate engagement and a hands on approach. Virtual Reality can create a fun and active learning environment, allowing students to imitate experiences, simulate scenarios and explore the unreachable.

Incorporating VR into lessons is not tricky. Once you know what an app can do, the VR will take care of the rest. It will make possible what reality and more traditional forms of engagement can’t. From a learner’s perspective, the immersion into VR directly impacts the understanding and retention of information. However, the real trick is to know when and how to use it across the curriculum.

Vr can be used to:

• Introduce new topics and historical periods

• Gain practical knowledge, through safe exploration

• Simulate scenarios and events

• Visit and experience different countries and cultures

• Make virtual realities and then explore them

• Reflect with more detail, once outside of VR

By integrating these learning opportunities into a topic, students can delve into virtual immersive environments, becoming historians rather than learning about history; or becoming pilots without the training or license. Teachers are able to open the gates of exposure to all learners, using VR to experience things such as the bottom of the ocean, space or taking to flight like the Wright Brothers.

Students are engaged and captivated, which makes the managing of the learning environment extremely simple. As a result of this, teachers are able to be innovative with how it can impact learning. They can explore new ways of making the most out of a straightforward but effective tool. One of the easiest ways is to work with a partner, and record information gathered from set questions.

Students are then able to use real life experiences to promote creativity.

If you haven’t already, please watch Mark Zuckerberg’s VR demo at Oculus Connect where he meets 2 friends from different places on earth, plays cards, begins a sword right, makes a phone call and takes a selfie… all in VR.

Although a little overwhelming at first, it gives a good insight into where this digital generation is heading, which teachers need to pioneer. We also need to remember that VR doesn’t necessarily need to break the bank. Google Cardboard is priced at around (US)$15.00 and, even if you don’t have one, you can still use the VR apps without it.

Edgar Dale’s Cone of Experience outlines how much we remember when stimulating different senses. In a nutshell, we remember 20% to 30% of what we hear and see respectively; 50% when they’re combined; and 90% of what we say and do. Understanding this, we shouldn’t be asking the question, ‘Should we be introducing VR into classrooms?’ but rather, ‘When and how often?’

With many companies investing in Virtual Reality, schools need to be getting ahead of the game and making the most of a resource that will soon be reinventing the way we learn.

By Tom Edge

Tom is an innovative educator at JESS Jumeirah, where he has harnessed a wide range of digital technologies and transformed the way students learn. He has written for iPad Educators and his work with the Classcraft platform was featured at the GESS Dubai 2016. Twitter: @classedgetech