Virtual reality technology is an effective way to increase the effectiveness of daily lessons in the classroom It is increasingly used in schools for everything from Language Arts for Mathematics. At West Baton Rouge Parish Schools, a district of 4,100 students in Louisiana, we saw virtual reality as a great opportunity to offer something new to help teachers engage students with content.
We used ESSER money to purchase several ClassVR headphones for our area, and since then, I’ve been out of the races! Teachers at all grade levels are now incorporating VR content into their lessons. We lead the technology team in the region and, along with educators, we present regularly about technology at conferences, including ISTE, FETC and TCEA. Most importantly, our students reap the benefits of using VR technology through their ability to have virtual experiences that connect them to the curriculum on a deeper level. Here are just a few examples.
VR . field trips
This is a common request from our teachers. We have used virtual reality to help students experience the Great Wall of China, the Colosseum in Rome, and many other remote places without leaving the classroom. We have many students who have never been outside their neighborhoods, let alone other states or countries. We are right across the river from Baton Rouge, and some of our students have never been to town before.
Virtual reality technology is a great way to help students experience and learn about the world, as well as local attractions. For us, virtual reality helps show students that the world is bigger than their home, street, or neighborhood. opens their world. It makes them say, “I could go to the Great Wall of China one day or go on an African safari.”
If you then connect that to the curriculum, it makes it richer and shows students that there are possibilities in life that go beyond just a small community.
One of our favorite examples of this is with our third grade teachers, who use virtual reality to supplement their ELA lessons. They hold Sharing Days when teaching about specific topics such as the ocean, immigration, or space. These days, students break up into small groups and complete activities at different stations. One station involves using a VR headset to explore videos on the topic.
For the unit in the ocean, teachers uploaded a virtual reality experience of swimming with sharks and squid. For the space module, we used 360-degree videos from NASA. For the immigration unit, students actually traveled to places like the Statue of Liberty and the different countries from which people immigrated. VR stations have always been a class favorite during engagement days.
Another thing about virtual reality is that it can just be fun. It was one of our all time favorite fun lessons in December. Kindergarten students had to go on a field trip to Santa’s workshop. Using ClassVR headphones and a YouTube 360 video, we gave the students the experience of flying in a sleigh with Santa, helping him deliver gifts. Teachers can also use this lesson to supplement a lesson about the North Pole.
It was a huge success. And not surprisingly, after one of the classes did this, word spread, and suddenly all the teachers wanted to do it with their classes. One of the best ways to get more teachers to use technology is through word of mouth. This was an excellent example of that.
While virtual reality is a great way to support lessons, training and implementation are important, as with any new technology. Here are some suggestions for areas looking to bring virtual reality or any other new technology to their schools.
Spend time planning professional development and make it fun. If teachers are uncomfortable with technology, they will not use it. It is important to present it in an attractive way. Lead our technical teamsummer challenge“In which we transformed our PD. Teachers got points for trying out the new technology. For example, if a teacher decided to check out the VR headset to try it out at home and inform the group again or post something on social media and tag classmates, they would get points For T-shirts or mugs.
We find that converting PD into effective games. It makes it more fun, and teachers feel it’s not too much of a burden. Then, look for “tech evangelists” – fireworks gurus who like to do all things exciting. Get them to use it. They are the ones who will occupy the other teachers.
Use easy-to-implement tools. If we have to spend an entire school term debugging, that defeats the purpose of having the technology. We are very interested in choosing technology that won’t require a lot of troubleshooting and is easy for teachers to use. We provide training as mentioned above. When a teacher checks out gadgets—whether it’s Spheros, Lego sets, or ClassVR—he needs some help, we either send a working student to help the teacher, or we work directly with the teacher ourselves. To make the best use of technology, it is important to choose products that are reliable and easy to implement.
Focus on pedagogy. Technology can help students make connections with the books they are reading and the topics they are studying. It can be used in everything from ELL . instructions to me Private education. Our goal is for technology to be a tool to support education, rather than an end in itself.
We ask teachers to choose their own teaching methods and teaching strategy, and we will help them choose the technology that will help them achieve their goal. The first thing we ask the teacher is “What content? What are you studying?” Then we talk about what we can do to help them from a technology point of view. Technology is a great way to improve a lesson and engage students more deeply in the content. But don’t force it if it doesn’t make sense.
Technology, when done right, can engage and inspire students and help revive the curriculum. Taking the above considerations into account can help schools and districts successfully adopt and implement virtual reality or any other technology.
Tammy Seneca, Ph.D., is the Supervisor of Information Systems and Education Technology and Stephanie Thompson is the District Technology Facilitator and Professional Developer for West Baton Rouge Parish Schools in Port Allen, Los Angeles. They lead the technology team in the region, provide technical development to teachers and staff, and regularly attend educational conferences about class in r and other technologies they use to support classroom teaching.
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