Virtual reality being used in the classroom is not just an educational trend. It can have a positive effect on student learning and engagement. Here’s what you need to know about VR and how you can better prepare your students for the careers of the future without having to leave the classroom. And we’ll look at the best VR apps currently available.
What’s Fueling Immersive Technology in Education?
There are two reasons for the growth in popularity of ed tech in general and VR in particular – the rate of evolving technology and falling costs. Laptops are getting cheaper (bringing closer the day when every child will have a device in school) and Microsoft is set this year to launch a light and inexpensive Windows Core software that can run on cheaper laptops.
Along similar lines, immersive technology now has more affordable options like the Oculus Go headset and a glut of Augmented Reality (AR) kits and AR core enabled experiences for mobile. With the release of excellent VR experiences for Vive, Rift, and WMR headsets, the VR platform is now a real possibility for educators who want to assimilate this technology into their classrooms.
Navigating the Best VR Education Apps by Subject Matter
Tilt Brush allows students to create their own artwork in 3D environments using a huge variety of colors and brushes. It’s available on Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, and students can share their creations in animated GIFs.
For a VR art museum experience, you can’t get any better than Boulevard. This app gives students the opportunity to walk through some of the world’s leading museums, experiencing iconic artwork in a three-dimensional space while a curator recounts the stories behind each piece.
Aviation and Aerospace
Titans of Space takes students into deep space to explore and understand the enormous awesomeness of our galaxy. Visuals (with accurate perspective and size ratios) are as stunning and all space exploration takes place to inspiring background music.
Even the Apollo 11 VR space expedition app has been given a recent upgrade with new demo modes that allow you to choose specific scenes from the full documentary experience.
With recent breakthroughs in aviation technology, VR is ushering in a new era of pilot training, which would be of special interest to students thinking about careers in aviation or aerospace.
A Journey Into The Brain is one of the latest offerings from educational VR giant Unimersiv. The app takes students on a narrated journey through the brain and explains how this marvel of human anatomy works. The app is free and available for Samsung GearVR and Oculus Rift.
Another quality VR experience is The Body VR. This app allows students to travel through the bloodstream and explore how blood cells work and how they react to viruses.
One of the areas to benefit most from VR educational apps is geography. Earth AR allows the earth to be viewed in a new way while Discovery VR gives students opportunities to discover exotic natural locations and interact with the natural world around them. Just some of the experiences include swimming with sharks, rescuing rhino, mountain biking, or exploring base camp at Mt. Everest or the Taj Mahal. The app can be used on a number of platforms, including Oculus Rift, GearVR, and HTC Vive.
Students can immerse themselves in the wonders of ancient Egypt with VR educational apps like KingTut VR that bring a reach-out-and-touch reality to hieroglyphics and the Death Mask of Tutankhamun. The Anne Frank House VR sets out in detail the secret annex where Anne Frank and her family hid for more than two years during World War II. The VR experience is enriched with quotes from her diary.
Learn Languages VR provides students with a multi-dimensional approach to learning a language by immersing them in a locale where they can communicate with native speakers in real life dialogue. This app had been download more than 500 million times.
Number Hunt is where gaming meets math. Students get to travel through a number of interesting arenas and hunt down anthropomorphized numbers, shooting them with a device that applies either addition, subtraction multiplication, or division.
Nanome, available on Vive, Rift, and WMR, was named one of the most exciting scientific apps in 2018. It allows the student to interact with chemicals and proteins, and supersizes nanotechnology while also providing opportunities for students to collaborate with each other or in groups.
The Future of VR Educational Apps
As educators use VR technology more widely, a demand for VR learning platforms that allow for an experience that is tailored to the unique life and environment of students is likely to grow. This is already seen in tools like Tour Creator that allows adjudicators to build their own interactive, multi-scene virtual tours. The attraction of Tour Creator is that it’s free and has a simplified creation process for educators to incorporate simple 360 tours across the curriculum.
Another wonder is the Merge Cube app – a foam block that works with Google Cardboard headsets and transforms into our solar system, a dinosaur, or almost anything else that can be thought up.
Many tech experts are saying that VR is about to go mainstream and 2019 may not be far off the mark. Recently, at Oculus Connect, Oculus and Facebook set aside $10 million dollars to invest in educational content creators. What are your students doing with virtual reality?
This guest blog is written by Jo-Ann Coetzee, the Organic Search Executive of The Media Image in London, England.