1, Educate yourself.  Read and have a conversation about VR.  There are plenty of resources available, do your own research and due diligence into the value of VR in education.

2, Experiment.  Yes we’ve all heard of it, Google Expeditions.  I do see value with expeditions especially since it’s free and available on both Android and iOS.  All you need is a cardboard sleeve, a capable mobile device and you’re set to experience VR.

3, Dream.  VR is not yet ready for widespread K12 adoption due to barriers such as cost and limited content however there are a growing number of appropriate VR experiences that can be used in the classroom.

Shout out to all my colleagues, see links at the end of this article, who are taking thoughtful steps to appropriately integrate VR into their curriculum.  Your efforts are integral to the success of VR as a trans formative educational medium.

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InTELA VR Day, Oct 23rd, 2017 – Thank you to all those that presented and coordinated with me!

The week of October 23rd, 2017, had me at 3 conferences. InTELA VR Day, xRinEDU and CUE Fall.  The goal for my involvement in these conferences was to assess the state of VR from the educators perspective as well as from the XR industry.  Generally speaking virtual field trips seem to be high on the wish list of most educators.  In panel discussions, industry leaders noted virtual field trips as VR experiences that are appropriate and add value to the classroom.  While I agree that being able to virtually “visit” a foreign place, experience a new culture and even transcend time does add value to education, there is so much more VR content available TODAY that can dramatically change the K12 classroom.

First, Virtual Reality stands somewhere in the “Slope of Enlightenment” inside the Gartner Hype Cycle. We’ve past the initial phases and are just getting through the Trough of Disillusionment.

Wait, Trough of Disillusionment?  Yes negativity towards VR, think Augmenter Reality taking the wind out of the Virtual Reality sails or a lack of high end VR headsets sales from HTC and Oculus.  This does not mean that VR has lost its value or that developers have given up on the technology.  So as educators, we should be looking for appropriate, value additive VR content to enhance our lessons, engage students and inspire them.

Since the release of HTC’s Vive and the Oculus Rift, K12 educators have wondered how might VR change the landscape of education.  Today the VR industry is taking a multi-pronged approach to VR , High end Vive/Rift, Mid level GearVR/Daydream and soon to be Oculus Go and Entry level mobile VR with a head mounted sleeve.  A decent amount of content for K12 exists in the entry level.  Google Expeditions, Apps for the Sciences, Apps for the Human Anatomy, The Blue Whale, Tilt Brush Gallery, Youtube 360, CoSpaces and Thinglink are just a handful of VR experiences or content providers available today.

If we’re looking to add value in the classroom, most of these VR experiences don’t have much “replay”.  As educators we need ways to drive student engagement and increase agency.  A good way to achieve both is through creation.  Youtube 360, CoSpaces and Thinglink all allow for the creation of content in addition to the control over the content the viewers have when they are inside of the VR experience.

If you’ve got a film class, task your students with creating a 360 film.  What’s great about 360 video is that, not only are you giving your students a new medium to create with, their audience now also has control over their experience when they watch the film.  The medium of 360 video creates new challenges when filming, remember to keep the camera stationary, use redirection with characters or objects and remember that your audience can look in any direction so you must stage the whole scene.  Shoot your video, edit it and then upload it to YouTube for your audience to watch.

CoSpaces allows users to create stories. Users are given a blank canvas and tools to create a virtual world with basic shapes and objects. Furthermore, you can import 360 imagery to create additional depth and you may import 3d objects you’ve created or curated elsewhere so long as the files are fbx, stl or obj. Let’s not forget that CoSpaces engages it’s users further through the use of code. You can animate objects and create sequences with Blockly, JavaScript or TypeScript. Lastly, public demonstration of work is critical. The reinforcement achieved when students become teachers is strong. They do this with CoSpaces traditionally on a computer or in VR.

Take a 360 image, annotate over it and create an interactive experience with text, images, web links, video & audio.  Create multiple Thinglink stories and link them together through web links to create a walk through virtual field trip.

Moving ahead to the high end VR market where Rift and Vive live, there are a large number of applications that serve the Architecture, Engineering and Construction industry like MakeVR Pro from Sixense which uses a real CAD engine.  The Film industry is also benefiting from VR through short films from companies like Baobab Studios who have won an Emmy for their VR work.  In this article though, I’d like to focus on Virtual Reality in healthcare where we find life changing applications for VR in healthcare education, training and in direct connection to patient health.

First education.  YOU by Sharecare contains medically accurate representations of the human body and it’s organs.  Furthermore it allows users to visually see, and explore, not only a healthy human body but experience how body parts are affected by disease and how life style changes can battle those ailments.

VR is also gaining traction as a cost effective and valuable tool to train physicians and medical staff for various hospital tasks including infant trauma surgery.  In April of this year I attended a panel which included Parisa Zaga of Facebook/Oculus, Rik Shorten of BioflightVR, Shauna Heller of Clay Park VR, Dr. Todd Chang of Children’s Hospital LA, and Tom Dolby of AiSolve.  This rock star group and their organizations created virtually a 1:1 VR solution to train medical staff on the ins and outs of infant trauma training.  Typically Children’s Hospital LA spends roughly $430,000.00 annually to train professionals in a physical space at the hospital and the VR solution costs less, does not requite the use of a facility, can be done anywhere and can be assessed as needed.

How can VR directly impact a patients health?  Surgical Theater combines real patient CT and MRI images to create an accurate 3D model of the patients anatomy and disease.  From there surgeons can rehearse brain surgery routines specific to the patients anatomy so that when they perform the operation, they are not going in for the “first” time and have additional “practice” through rehearsal.  Dr. Neil Martin, Chief of Neurosurgery at UCLA Medical Center, said in an interview, “…and now with the virtual reality headset you can actually fly inside the skull, look at the tumor from every possible angle, memorize the anatomy so that when you get to surgery it’s deja-vu.”

I recognize that as K12 educators we’re not likely going to be training our students on trauma surgery or ask them to rehearse brain surgery, however my point is that Virtual Reality is being used in the professional world now.  Our students will graduate K12, go to university and enter a professional workforce unlike what we know today.

As an Educator I encourage you to prepare yourself for the use of Virtual Reality in your classroom.  Begin by Educating yourself, Experimenting and Dreaming about how Virtual Reality can impact your classroom now and in the future.

Great People and Resources for Virtual and Augmented Reality in Education:

Steve Bambury, @steve_bambury – https://www.virtualiteach.com
Jaime Donally, @JaimeDonally –  https://www.arvrinedu.com
Michael Fricano II, @EdTechnocation http://www.edtechnocation.com
Corey Engstrom, @TeachInVR – http://www.teachinvr.com

2 thoughts on “What Educators need to know about Virtual Reality now

  1. This is a fantastic summary, folks. I just wanted to mention that VR has also made its way into training for skilled trades. ITI has had a big impact on crane training this year with their vr crane simulators (https://www.ITI.com/vr), with many, many more industry-specific simulators in development from a broad range of companies. Welding, plumbing, electrical, heavy equipment operation and a long list of others are now available or in the works. Here’s to experiential learning!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Reblogged this on Education Technology Innovations and commented:
    As we continue to develop our Tech Hub we have included two HTC VIVE sets. We open this to classes (booked by the teacher) for use and during lunchtimes for Student bookings.
    As you can imagine there was great demand and waiting lists to begin with and now we are seeing the same students booking every week or two.

    As a leader in digital learning I am doing what I can to source VR experiences, and as Steven quite rightly says is that these experiences don’ t have much of the “replay” appeal and other than the 360 experience it is not really something that couldn’t be experienced on a flat screen with a great deal less cost involved.

    Don’t get me wrong…I love the VR experience and I have seen some students experience things that they would never be able to experience in real life. One student who is wheelchair bound has journeyed to places in outer space, climbed Mount Everest and will soon walk the Kakoda Track (we have just downloaded this Australian Experience.

    As I read through this article I was thinking about a conversation I recently had with some IT students. They are about to embark on their senior studies, and as we are a rural school the subjects that run are those with the most students applying for them and these students were ‘out-voted’ for their subjects and in the upcoming school year 3 Digital media, programming and technology courses will be dropped from the curriculum. As you can imagine this news for these dedicated students was very upsetting and traumatic. One is now considering dropping out of school completely to pursue their passion of digital media, programming and technology just because as a school the decision has been made not to run these courses.

    This article has given me inspiration to support these students and their teachers to use VR creation tools to develop digital resources that will comply with the needs of their courses whilst still enabling them to develop digital media and programming skills they are so passionate about.

    Thank you for this article and the suggestions you have included to make VR a tool for all educators and learners.

    Liked by 1 person

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