Monday, August 22, 2016

VR’s Place in the Makerspace

I’ve recently decided to take on a different responsibility at work.  Whereas before I was teaching middle school technology classes, I will now be the Library and Instructional Technology Teacher.  I still get to work in classrooms and help infuse technology into the different curricular areas but I will no longer have my own class.  I have some mixed feelings about not having my own load of students as I’m starting off the school year.  In years past, at this point, I have been able to access student rosters and started memorizing names of my 200 or so students.  Instead I’m focusing now on professional development, roll out of 1:1 Chromebooks, and how to partner with teachers on their various technology goals and endeavors.

One area that I want to emphasize a lot this coming school year is finding opportunities small or big to continue using VR in the classroom.  As part of my new job, I will have the opportunity to start up a makerspace at our school.  For anyone who has read some of my other blog posts will know that my idea of VR in the classroom revolves around its ability to engage students beyond just using it as a presentational tool.  I’m super excited to explore VR as a maker/creator tool in education.  I was recently reading some comments from Kerry Gallagher about her thoughts on VR in the classroom in her reflection after the ISTE educational technology conference this summer.  Hopefully she doesn’t mind me quoting her article on EdSurge.  She postulates:

“Why not show students how to create with VR and AR? One student could incorporate guided virtual reality into a presentation or lesson she shares with their classmates about a historical site. Another student could find photographs of places or inventions he wants to study and then create augmented reality-triggered videos of himself explaining what he’s learned. A couple of years ago, my high school students created their own scavenger hunt with QR codes, and loved learning from one another that way. We can expand that idea to virtual and augmented reality.”

Something about this really resonates with me.  In a sense, I don’t ever feel like my job as a teacher is complete until my students are able to complete a product or produce something.  For me, the knowledge isn’t fully ripe without a concrete application that at least approximates what people do every day in the “real world.”  Even better is if my students are actually contributing to the real world now.  This is what I find so compelling about VR.  The ability for kids to create in a 3D immersive space and bring those experiences to those around them.  I think it is still a little too early to even know exactly what that entails or which pieces will fit efficiently into what teachers are able to do in the classroom but I have a feeling that it will be transformational.  I for one am excited about what this year has to offer.

If you are interested in following more of my journey and my random ramblings about using VR to create in the classroom, check out some of my other posts about VR video content creation, VR app development using Unity, or a quick primer on using dynamic 3D viewers to show off student work in VR. As always, feel free to join in the discussion, I love talking educational VR with all like-minded teacher tinkerers.