Last Friday we rolled out our new set of Google “Cardboard” VR viewers. The first experience was with grade 8. I led them through the Google Expedition depicting the life of two Syrian refugee children in Lebanon. Monday, Ryan Maney (@rmaney17), our amazing elementary STEM Teacher used them to take grade 4 students on a virtual field trip to a wind farm as an introduction to their science unit on energy. (NGSS 4-PS3 Definition of Energy and Energy Transfer).
In both cases the power of the experience was realized by the excitement of the students. One fourth grader was overheard saying, “I would have never guessed that teachers would use VR in a classroom.”
Our grade 8 Humanities teacher Tweeted…
What did we learn from these experiences?
- VR Experiences need to be short or have frequent breaks. The main reason for this is to prevent kids from getting a headache or queasy when using the viewers. It doesn’t happen to everyone, but we did have a few children who needed to put the viewer down after a few minutes.
- You don’t need a full class set. We only have 10 viewers. As our STEM Teacher so masterfully modeled, pausing frequently is an opportunity for students to stop, reflect, and record observations. Think of it as “close reading” with VR. Students would view a scene, then pass the viewer to their partner as they wrote down observations, details, and questions. Then their partner then does the same while they view the next scene.
- Make sure your viewers have a button. Many of the cheap viewers I’ve seen at Walmart or other places don’t have the button that mimics a screen tap. This is necessary for many of the Google Cardboard apps, Google Earth, YouTube, CoSpaces, etc. It allows the students to select items, move, or pause playback while in VR. We went the the Homido Grab headsets (pictured below) and Huawei Honor 5 inch phones (no SIM Card).