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Futureproofing Your Son - Virtual Becomes Reality

Virtual reality has been around for decades, however application in classrooms varies from school to school. The topic has mainly been restricted to digital technology and technology fields, however there are many applications across curriculum that can enhance the learning and enjoyment of lessons for students in different subject areas.

Some examples of fully immersive Virtual reality headsets include the HTC Vive ($1000), Samsung Oculus Rift ($600) and Sony PlayStation VR ($500). While these costs would not be too much of a stretch for most schools for one device, there is also a requirement to have a high specification PC to deliver a smooth experience. Microsoft have also developed the HoloLens with a hefty price tag of $12000. This alone would deter most schools from making the purchase of this augmented reality device. Speaking from personal experience, I can confirm it is absolutely incredible and like nothing I have experienced before. I believe we must give our boys the tools required for industry and exposure future technology that would be too expensive to buy at home. I look forward to the time we can integrate this upcoming technology into the curriculum more effectively. Jessica Conditt at Engadget writes,

The second generation of VR is on its way, and there are a lot fewer cables involved. Standalone VR is the next step, removing the PC (or the smartphone, for that matter) from the equation entirely.’

I predict the price of VR Technology will fall within the next two years making it more affordable for organisations to utilise. For more information you can check out this video about the “amazing future uses of VR”:

What are the benefits of using VR is schools?

There have been some applications of VR used in medicine to teach students and to prepare them for situations which would be difficult to model in the real world. There are now applications that can help in learning new languages and deliver fun interactive content to students with learning difficulties, plus many applications to develop language and vocabulary skills. Marcus Storm from Evanescent Studios writes, “We see a future where kids in history lessons are going back to revolutionary France and interacting with the people there.” Other applications include:
• Mathematics – drawing shapes and structures in 3D interactive games
• Engineering – creating life like models before construction
• Geography – students can view different cities or places in the world
• History – visiting battle fields or a variety of historical periods
HPE – reaction and skill development-based games

As you can imagine the cost of creating a class set of HTC Vive or Oculus Rift headsets would be unfeasible. There are cheaper alternatives that can provide a good interactive experience such as the Google Carboard which makes use of the user’s smart phone and a visor to create the same effect.

What are we doing?

ATC is taking steps to integrate VR into the curriculum using Leap Motion sensors in Digital Technology combined with Unity programming to create new fun exciting units. This step will hopefully lead to further investment in a fully working VR system that can be utilised by students in Years 10, 11 and 12 for their ATAR Digital Solutions units. The Junior School and other Middle School subjects have been using Google Cardboard to experience Virtual Reality in the classroom with plenty of teachers keen to integrate this practice into their lessons.

Virtual Reality will only become more prevalent over time and here at Ambrose Treacy College we will continue to push the boundaries in developing student skills in this exciting arena.

Adam Moss
Head of Digital Technology

For further reading why not visit the BBC tech site, or engage with the Engadget site