by Jørund Høie Skaug, Future Classroom Lead Ambassador for Norway
Virtual Reality has become hyped technology this year, with the launch of Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and the upcoming PlayStation VR. There are a lot of possibilities for VR in education but price is a barrier against mainstream use in classrooms for the foreseeable future. Oculus Rift ($599) and HTC Vive (€ 899) both require expensive desktop PCs, and even if PlayStation VR is more moderately priced ($399), these VR systems do not scale very good for classroom or Future Classroom lab use, since only one person at a time can use a headset.
However, with mobile VR systems, the situation is different. Google Cardboard and similar VR viewers are inexpensive (from 5€), and work with all newer smartphones. A VR experience on a cardboard viewer does not have the quality of the Rift or the Vive, but there are still a lot of exciting opportunities for educators interested in immersive learning. Finding VR and 360 degree video content is easy, some of the best (mostly free) smartphone apps we have come across are collected in The Norwegian FCLs list of Cardboard Apps for Educators . Another way to find content is simply to search for «virtual reality» or «vr» in Google Play and App Store. A VR workshop in a Future Classroom lab does not really require more than a couple of cardboard viewers, since learners can work in groups, and download apps on their own smartphones.
Some iOS and Google Play apps which could be interesting in FCL settings, are Bosch VR, where you get a guided tour in the Hieronymus Bosch triptych The Garden of Earthly Delights, and the Google Cardboard app, where you can experience the Antarctica and Street View in VR.
Titans of Space (Android only), is perhaps the best example to date of how VR can be used in classrooms. In Titans of Space, you travel through the solar system, and learn about planets and stars on the way. Even with a cardboard headset the experience can be breathtaking, especially regarding to the size of some of the stars you encounter in the outskirts of the solar system.
One of our ambassadors, Adrian Talleraas, have made a presentation (in English) which describes in detail how a teacher can set up groups (with 2 or 3 learners, secondary level) who work with Titans of Space, taking turns to write notes and travel through space. After the trip and the note-taking, the groups play a learning game with a quiz in Kahoot (also in English).
The Samsung Gear VR ($99) is by far the best mobile VR system, and has its own app store with a lot of interesting content. The catch is that it only works with Samsung Galaxy S6 or S7 phones. But as mentioned above, a few inexpensive cardboard viewers is really all you need for doing VR workshops in Future Classroom labs.
Other things to consider:
- VR files for smartphones tend to be big, so it´s important to have a wifi available. Files can be deleted after use.
- Some VR experiences (such as rollercoasters) may cause nausea,
- Older smartphones and OS versions may not be compatible with VR apps.
- Play in spinning chairs. Or stand up, depending on the experience.
- Sound is very important. Always use headphones.