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The power of VR field trips

The sense of adventure that comes with exploring a new place is second to none. Even as an adult I get giddy at the thought of visiting a brand-new area of the world. In the current climate, that presents its own unique issues. But, even before the age of homeschooling many are finding themselves in, logistically and cost-wise, organizing children for a school trip could be a nightmare. It’s important to instill a love of education young when possible, and field trips provide that bridge between the classroom and real life. Being able to experience situations in authentic environments can help foster empathy and curiosity for the world around us, so finding the most frictionless way to achieve that is paramount. This is where VR can come in, because while it is not a straight up replacement for visiting these sites, it provides enough of a spark to engage even the most unimpressed of students.

Apps like Google Expeditions can be used with inexpensive cardboard devices and is a free resource to use. Using this app you can go on curated tours using both VR and AR from reputable companies such as National Geographic and Guggenheim as well as creating your own tours. If you have more resources available like an Oculus headset, there’s software like Apollo 11 VR which takes the user through the journey of travelling to the moon in a fantastically cinematic way.

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The gamifying of education

Gamifying education has been a method that has been used in the UK school system, at least, for years. I have found memories of the haunting flash games I had to work my way through on the one chunky PC in the classroom. Not having a PC at home meant that this new shiny technology was almost engaging enough on its own to command my attention.

But, with gaming becoming the biggest entertainment sector on the planet it’s going to take a little bit more than an old PC in the corner churning out simple division questions to garner a child’s attention.

This is where VR comes in. There are already studies that show that gamifying education can help with concentration because of the immersive feeling of playing a game. This is just amplified with the introduction of VR. Much like when I was impressed with the single PC in the classroom as a child, the technology of today can impress just as it did back then.

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The ability to retain information

It can be hard to find the balance between what is a learning experience for a child and what is a clear danger. Would allowing a group of children to fend for themselves in a desert for a night be an enriching experience? Well, for some in the group perhaps, but ultimately, the danger is too high. But, what if, through the power of VR a group of children were transported to the barren lands of a far-off desert where they learnt how to set up camp, identify poisonous plants and animals and maybe even have a singsong?

On paper, these are very different scenarios, but our brain reacts to the dangers presented in VR as if they are real. Helping us retain the lessons learnt as if we were actually trying to work out whether the grub we were about to eat would kill us or not. This extreme example is obviously in jest, but many peer reviewed studies do suggest that information learnt in VR is retained better and understood by more people than the standard classroom or lecture.

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Innovative applications for Higher Education

University, for many students, becomes a time to learn – fast – how to budget not only their money but also their time. The allure of all the societies at a Freshers’ Fair becomes too much and by the time a student is actually sat in front of a lecturer, ready to learn, it can be safe to assume the budget for expensive cultural trips left their bank accounts as soon as they realized how expensive student accommodation is.

That doesn’t mean, however, that they should have to relinquish the right to enriched learning experiences. As discussed earlier, this is where VR can help. There are many VR apps dedicated to virtual excursions, providing a real alternative to visiting places in real life. While not a direct substitute, many studies have shown that people do feel a real emotional connection to what they are witnessing in VR, like this study.

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Transforming the Special Education landscape

Immersive Tech has always played a role within the special education sector with products similar to our CaVRn or projection mapping being used in sensory rooms all over the world. However, VR has proven to have an even greater impact for this Australian school that specializes in special needs. The teacher of the k-12 class remarked how incorporating VR into the syllabus ‘provokes and promotes a very imaginative response [from students], and ultimately that’s what he wants to see.”

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