Science class just got a whole lot cooler for some California kids who have discovered the wonders of virtual reality. Now you don’t need to be an astronaut or be launched into space to see planets, galaxies and stars. With the introduction of new 3-D virtual reality technology in the classroom, students have the ability to explore like never before.
Teachers are excited about the introduction of virtual reality in the classroom because it gets the students engaged and energized about learning. Since students are used to using technology regularly, introducing virtual reality would be delivering content in a way that is attractive to them. Students strap on the goggles and transport themselves to prehistoric times, distant galaxies and faraway continents. Students can trek through Nepal, study marine life in the Indian Ocean and watch glaciers melt in Antarctica—all without ever leaving the classroom.
One of the drawbacks of the virtual reality technology is cost. Outfitting an entire classroom with the equipment and content can be cost prohibitive for many school districts. but David Evans, director of the National Science Teachers Association thinks that falling prices will mean that virtual reality will become a commonplace staple of science classroom life.
The NSTA is gearing up to make virtual reality a reality. The association is planning a conference that will give educators the tools they need to introduce virtual reality into the curriculum. Their conference will focus on trends and the future of the technology in education.
California is leading the charge when it comes to adopting new science standards. The Next Generation Science Standards, introduced in 2013, include subject matter that students find more interesting when viewed through virtual reality technology. Software companies and curriculum designers are racing to connect their content to fit in the virtual reality platform.
Our private tutors love VR just as much as their students. Teachers like Tammy Dunbar, who teaches fifth grade guides her students through 3-D computer modeling and virtual reality, and sees a huge difference in how they retain the information. The students enjoy learning and want to dig more into the subject matter.
One commonly used application, “Lifeliqe,” includes images of natural rock formations, wildlife and topography to deliver in-depth lessons that come alive. Students can use them in tandem with their laptops. A student can take a rendering of an insect and rotate it to see its exoskeleton, wings and antennae. They can also insert the images into their reports and read additional information to aid them in their study.
The price to provide Lifeliqe to the entire school is $5,000, a bargain when compared to the $119 per student each family would have to pay if they purchased it for home use. The company offered the software to Dunbar’s class for free because of their status as a Title I school. In these schools, many of the students come from impoverished backgrounds.
A school-wide subscription to Lifeliqe costs about $5,000 annually, which allows all students at the site to use the software. That compares with the $119 annual subscription that individual consumers would pay.
Lifeliqe offered Dunbar’s class subscription for free because she teaches at a Title I school, where most students come from low-income families. The company also offered a free trial that included gear and lessons on how to make the most of the software.
The gear includes headset, controllers and content that students can use to do everything from watching a dinosaur in action to swimming alongside whales and poking around inside of a plant. They can walk on the International Space Station or delve into the wonders of the human body.
With all that virtual reality offers, it’s easy to see why teachers and private tutoring services believe that it is the wave of the future.