Today’s blog is a collaborative post by myself and Adam Torrens, an Elementary Ed-Tech Coach at my school in Singapore, Stamford American International School. I am always inspired by what Adam does in our school and it is an honor to work with him on a daily basis to lead and drive change and innovation. Enjoy this look into the success of our Virtual Reality Kit at Stamford and stay tuned for more updates on what this looks like in the classroom.
Having a VR (Virtual Reality) kit in school is one of the most exciting ways your students can travel the world and explore concepts without having to leave the classroom. They can explore different cultures from around the world and then, with the tap of a device, they can be underwater with sea creatures from the depths of the ocean. But how intimidating is VR in the classroom? Is VR too difficult to integrate? Setting up a class VR kit and integrating VR into the classroom is simple and surprisingly cheap.
Setting up a class kit and integrating VR into the classroom is simple and surprisingly cheap. Here are some steps to get you started:
1. Explore Google Expeditions
The first step to any tech tool is to start exploring. Fortunately, the EdTechCoaches have done some homework for you! Google Expeditions is a VR experience that is tailor-made for classroom use. The app allows teachers to guide students through VR experiences and includes information about the visuals for teachers to provide.
Find the ‘Google Expedition’ app on Google Play or Apple’s App Store and explore the features. You’ll be surprised how simple and easy the application is to understand. Download a few galleries and take a look around. Our biggest tip is to trial the app with a friend so that one person can be a ‘Leader’ and the other can ‘Follow’. There is no need for a VR headset to explore the app initially.
2. Find the perfect devices for students to use
After exploring the Google Expedition app, you’ll find that it works best with a mobile device. But which device should you use? iPads are fantastic, however, the screen is too big to fit into VR glasses. After trialing numerous devices the EdTechCoaches decided to use the Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 for the VR class kits. These devices were chosen due for their clear screens and low prices. They are strong and durable for student use and they won’t break the budget. They include all of the specifications as listed by Google for optimum use of the app (see the list here).
3. Accumulate a class set of Google Cardboards
Google Cardboards are surprisingly cheap and easy to obtain. These can be commonly bought from corner shops or electronic stores for around US$10. You may have to do some simple assembly yourself, but once you make the necessary folds, you are good to go! No plug-ins or instructions required. Just open Google Expeditions on your mobile device and then place it into the Google Cardboard.
4. Set up a wifi connection (optional)
After playing around with our class VR kit after school hours, we were confident and ready to take our students around the world and into experiences, we knew that we couldn’t offer them any other way. However, during school hours, we found that our wifi was beginning to experience some lag. A quick solution was to set up our own router, specifically for our VR kit. This router travels around with the mobile devices and the Google Cardboards and gets plugged into the phone socket and power outlet in the classroom during usage.
5. Train teachers on how to use your new class VR kit
Now that your VR classroom kit is ready, the next step is to share these amazing opportunities with the students. However, you cannot be everywhere at once. Start to train the staff on how to setup the router and how to operate Google Expeditions through the Google Cardboards. Start by providing learning opportunities to selected, and ambitious, teachers who will then train other teachers who work closely with them (we call them our ICT Champions). Give the teachers times to explore the Google Expedition app away from the VR kit so that they can make strong connections to their written curriculum. Another suggestion is to create a booking system for the classroom VR kit to ensure fair use in every classroom. Don’t forget student voice is important too. Train up your student ‘techsperts’ to lead sessions across your school (follow this link to learn more about techsperts).
Please follow @MrKempNZ and @ATorrens84 on Twitter for more help and great examples of how to effectively integrate technology into your school. If you try Google Expeditions in the classroom, remember to share your experiences with us!