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When 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 when using these devices. That’s where the real cost comes in!

Microsoft have also developed the HoloLens with a hefty price tag of $12000. This would deter most schools from making the purchase of this augmented reality device but speaking from personal experience I can confirm it is absolutely incredible and like nothing I have experienced before. I believe we must give our students the tools required for industry and exposure to future technology that would otherwise be unattainable by individuals. I look forward to the time we can integrate this imminent 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 dramatically within the next two years making it more affordable for organisations educational institution to implement and utilise.

Check out this video about the amazing future uses of VR,

What are the benefits of using VR in schools?

There have been some applications of VR used to teach Medical students and to prepare them for situations which would be difficult to model in the real world setting of a university science lab. There are now applications that can help in learning new languages and there have been huge advancements in delivering fun interactive content to students with learning difficulties helping 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.

What are we doing?

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

ATC is has taken steps to integrate VR into the curriculum using the HTC Vive Pro system. This system is the most up to date hardware available, giving students the opportunity to fully immerse themselves into different learning environments or worlds of their own creation. It is planned that our students will undertake a VR unit in the new ATAR system, writing programs using python and unity (a 3D modelling / game development environment) to create their own worlds, interfaces and tutorials.

The Junior and Middle School have been using Google cardboard to experience Virtual Reality in the classroom with many teachers keen to integrate this practice into their lessons. This technology is cheap with plenty of new applications available for download almost every day.

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. The experience ATC students will receive in the VR arena is incredibly useful if pursuing tertiary education in digital technology fields. Exposure to this technology will give them a ‘leg up’ against other students gunning for university placements, giving them another bow in their already large quiver of arrows!

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Adam Moss
Head of Digital Technology