Oh how we laughed at The Simpsons’ scene in the early 90s where Lisa Simpson imagined a future class virtual excursion to 13th century Mongolia. Donning the virtual reality headset, the virtual Genghis Khan advises her, “You will go where I go. Defile what I defile. Eat what I eat.”
Before we get to how these technologies could be good for education, we need to understand what virtual reality (VR), 360 degree video and augmented reality (AR) are.
AR enhances what we see either through a headset or through a viewer like a smartphone. AR overlays contextually aware graphics on to our view of the real world. Applications like Aurasma (https://www.aurasma.com/) allow students to create their own augmented reality content. It also will not be long before kids can project their own holographic Minecraft world onto the lounge room sofa with technology like Hololens (https://www.microsoft.com/microsoft-hololens/en-us).
360 Degree Video
360 degree video is made using an omnidirectional camera – this means that instead of just capturing one image that can be seen through the lens of a normal camera or video camera, it can capture what is going on behind, above, below and beside you.
360 degree video can be viewed in different ways. It can be viewed on a desktop screen and the views can be controlled by the mouse. Check out the YouTube #360 Video channel (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCzuqhhs6NWbgTzMuM09WKDQ) to see how 360 degree video is being used, especially in news and tourism contexts to give the viewer a more immersive experience of places and events.
These videos can also be viewed with a device like a Google Cardboard, which allows the viewer to physically control the view by moving around. Turn your head left, you see what is there; look up, you see what is above you, and so on.
Unlike AR and 360 degree video, VR aims to block out the real world completely for a uniquely immersive experience. It can use real-world experiences, such as walking through the streets of New York, or dissecting a human heart.
VR uses special headsets like the Oculus Rift or devices which are in the offing like Leap Motion (https://www.leapmotion.com/product/vr) that allow you to use your hands, feet and body to control things in the virtual world.
Opportunities for Education
Immersive, entertaining experiences
The best educational experiences using this technology will be entertaining, delightful and practical. We must remember that this technology will be a natural, usual part of our students’ lives. Sony is about to unleash its virtual reality headset onto the PS4 platform in 2016 – so a 360 degree virtual excursion to a suburban park might not cut it. Having said that, I was delighted to see the wonderment and delight on my 14-year-old son’s face when he wore the Google Cardboard to experience the stories available on the VRSE story app (http://vrse.com/).
Integration and understanding
The integration of VR and 360 degree video allows students to meet some of the skills and experiences afforded by the new Technologies curriculum. Even Year 3 and 4 students should be able to describe how systems can be used for different purposes in the Digital Technologies Knowledge and Understanding strand. Of course, the application of VR to practical/experiential experiences is also an exciting possibility. Imagine being able to examine a virtual cadaver or to look at the activity the human brain at an atomic level.
Storytelling and understanding narrative construction
In a world where students are sophisticated consumers of media, VR helps educators teach students about new ways to construct narratives. Teachers will have to become literate in the way stories are constructed in platforms like VR and 360 degree video so that when students begin making their own stories in these platforms they have a better understanding of how the platform influences narrative, audience engagement and meaning.
Latest posts by Annabel Astbury (see all)
- Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality and 360 Degree Video in Education - February 5, 2016