Is This the Future of Education?

The VR Experience

The use of virtual reality in the classroom is certainly emerging technology. Many universities and vocational schools are using VR as a key learning tool. And this technology is filtering down to high, secondary, and elementary schools.

Today, I experienced what is perhaps the future of education. As a kid, do you remember getting a View- Master stereoscope and a bunch of rotary slides as a gift? Well.. welcome to the 21st century!

                                                                                  The Original View-Master

I visited Mr. Faiss’ 6th grade Social Studies class at the Kennett Middle School. Funds were recently allocated by the District towards the purchase of approximately 30 virtual reality headsets and accompanying Google Pixel devices. The equipment was purchased in the spring of 2019 and set up during the summer. It was only recently deployed in Mr. Faiss’ class.

Using the Google Expeditions application (which can be downloaded for free), students are able to experience a 3-dimensional educational experience which not only transcends the classroom but can also span the globe and even venture into outer space.

Prior to the start of class, I got a first-hand demonstration of virtual reality. After putting the View-Master up to my eyes, Mr. Faiss took me on a virtual tour of Paris. From a vantage point high above , I could see in 3-dimension almost every aspect of the city, from the Seine river running through the heart of it, to the Eiffel Tower and government buildings, and lastly its highly urbanized areas. Throughout this tour, Mr. Faiss narrated a social studies lesson focusing on these areas. As he highlighted an area, I was able to follow an arrow and zone into the area being discussed. I must say, the experience was visually stunning and I felt immersed in the experience.

The Student Experience

As his class funneled into his room, Mr. Faiss had put one View Master on each student’s desk, and I could feel a sense of excitement from his students. Today’s lesson centered on the industrial revolution. Prior to using the VR equipment, Mr. Faiss showed the students a short introductory video. As students donned the ViewMasters, the lesson began in agrarian England and finished with automated manufacturing both in England and in the United States.

    

                         Mr. Faiss Showing an Introductory Video to His Lesson

Throughout the lesson, students were totally engaged, and I witnessed a lively interaction between Mr. Faiss and his students. Students were actually able to ‘see’ England in their pre-industrialized era, and follow this vein of European and American history through mechanization, urbanization, and into the present-day. As with my experience, throughout the lesson, as Mr. Faiss focused on certain key topics, students were able to train their VR on the same topic. As the lesson progressed, it became more of a question and answer session testing students’ knowledge relating to what they were viewing and how it related to modern society. All in all, a very interesting lesson.

                                                   Images of Students Using VR Goggles

Only time will tell if this program improves student achievement, but it certainly deserves accolades for promoting student (and instructor) enthusiasm and involvement in course content. After his initial use of the equipment, Mr. Faiss commented to me that his students actually “thanked him for the lesson”.