Delivering learning gains with virtual reality

Screen Shot 2022 05 02 at 4.22.12 PM
virtual reality learning gains
(Image credit: Discovery Education and Adobe Creative Cloud Express 2022)

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For over a decade, I have worked with PK-8 classrooms throughout southern New Jersey to integrate technology. From projectors and smartboards to pens and touchpads, we’ve seen so much evolution of technology in education. One of the newer learning technologies that excites me is virtual reality and the learning gains it offers. It embeds lessons in a video game-like environment that many students already know and love – another of many benefits of technology in the classroom for today’s students.

Recent search projects a 36% annual growth rate of virtual reality – in education alone – from $6.37 billion in 2021 to $8.66 billion in 2022. That’s a way of saying that virtual reality is a great resource to start integrating teaching and learning. .

In the recent past, we used to spend time discuss hardware, learn software and how to create multimedia projects. Today, virtual reality and other technologies empower students and enable collaboration across time zones and languages. Virtual reality transports students from their headquarters to locations all over the planet (and the universe). I find the students of my cooperating neighborhoods want to using VR because it’s cool and exciting – a big win for student engagement.

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Here are two virtual reality resources I recommend and how they support student learning gains.

Open world virtual reality game

Minecraft: Education Edition (M:EE) takes the immersive worlds of Minecraft and adds collaboration tools, classroom controls and more in an open-world game where students can really tap into their imagination. It can be used on Windows, iPad and Chromebook. Students who don’t know him can access a tutorial “world” that will teach them how to use it.

virtual reality learning gains
Image credit: Minecraft: Education Edition 2022

Educators can take control of the environment, encouraging students to learn in specific spaces while providing space for them to explore. This collaborative sandbox game works well with open-ended projects where students build their understanding and create their own adventures.

For example, a middle school teacher assigned students a prehistory project, asking them to learn about the culture, the way of life, the limits and the historical assets of this period. The students then had to build an entire prehistoric village using only the materials that would have been available at that time.

They were able to do both using M:EE and its integrated learning platform, which allowed students to be creative and present evidence of learning through self-created resources. The students discussed the authenticity of their creations with their team, defending their choices by building this world together. The teacher led a rich discussion about types of building blocks, fusion techniques and sustainable materials in their designs. Built-in, customizable quizzes further amplify lesson plan learning.

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Creative Cloud further facilitates learning gains

I hear teachers say all the time that their students want to share what they’ve built and how they’ve creatively solved problems. Now the teacher can incorporate this part of the prehistory project above, asking students to design a presentation of their work. I like using Adobe Creative Cloud Express, which offers graphics, web pages, and videos.

The platform offers easy-to-use templates and visual editing tools that allow students to create presentations and showcase the screenshots they’ve taken while building their prehistory projects. They can add text explanations and effects, upload their own designs, and import videos to demonstrate their projects.

Students then illustrate their understanding of the topic by presenting their collaboration to the class and reflecting on the experience, process, roadmap of their village, and artifacts they have chosen to represent. This presentation shows how many learning gains virtual reality has helped them achieve.

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Virtual reality is no longer inaccessible

Virtual reality can be integrated in classroom lessons in many ways now. Various tools offer museum tours, journeys inside the human body, foreign language experiences, and views of the night sky.

I can use any number of technological tools to spark my students’ curiosity, inspire them to work together, and frame their learning in a way that makes them subject matter experts. Engaging students in this way and improving their understanding of subject matter are some of our primary goals as educators.

Michelle Wendt is a technology integration specialist at the Southern Regional Institute and Educational Technology Training Center. She teaches pre-service teachers at the School of Education at the University of Stockton. Wendt is the current president of the International Visual Literacy Association.


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