Last week I was interviewed by some film students from Macquarie University for an upcoming conference on technology and education soon to be held at their institution. Among the many questions they asked me was, “What’s one of the biggest changes you’ve seen in technology and its use in education in recent years?” My answer was the swift advances in Virtual Reality technologies and how they can be implemented effectively within a classroom setting. I don’t know whether or not this is true, but it’s certainly been noticeable from where I’m sitting in my little blip on the edusphere.
Last year this video of Mark Zuckerberg speaking about the potential of Virtual Reality technology to impact our daily lives was released, and back then, it still seemed like this impact was some way off. I now, however, don’t think it’s that far away.
We have, for instance, Google’s endeavours into the Virtual Reality in education realm with Google Expeditions. The idea is that students get to go on virtual field trips to far away and difficult to reach places while remaining in the relative comfort and safety of their classrooms by strapping on a Google Cardboard headset and going on a VR mission.
Aside from consuming VR content, my class has recently created a series of 360º VR videos and uploaded them to our class’ YouTube account. This project saw us put on a 360º VR Cinema Day to raise awareness and a small amount of charity funds for WWF Australia to help the plight of the endangered species they were researching. This brings us to the Young Creators Conference at the MAAS.
On Friday some of my students and I visited the MAAS to share our project with a large crowd of other students and teachers who are also making some interesting moves forward in STEM/STEAM education. We brought along a handful of computers and cardboard headsets so that visitors to our area could explore our server and view our videos in VR. Interestingly, the headsets we used were donated to our school by the Commonwealth Bank, who also have taken to VR to educate children about financial literacy in new and interesting ways.
What was new here for us was the use of the Vive. We’ve recently figured out that our MinecraftEdu world can be ported over to regular Minecraft and that through the installation of the ViveCraft mod, we’re able to share our world by strapping an HTC Vive headset on those interested and walking them through it as they experience it in VR! This adds a whole new level to how students engage with and articulate their learning. Below I’ll share some photos from the day.
It really was a great opportunity for students from all sectors to share their learning experiences and some of the great things happening in NSW schools. Particularly great for my students as some of them may not get out to places like the MAAS very often, and wonderful to see them as facilitators and exhibitors.
Here’s a video of one of my students experiencing our class work in VR for the first time. So cool!
We’ve been extremely lucky to have been loaned a Vive setup from the awesome peeps over at Coder Academy and can’t wait to start pushing things further.
We do quite a lot of our work in Minecraft and we’re currently looking to move away from the ‘edu’ versions so that we can do some more with VR. The original MinecraftEdu is still cool, but it’s stuck back in 1.7.10 and it won’t be too long until it starts looking a bit outdated. Also, it’s not compatible with Vivecraft. Furthermore, Minecraft ‘Education Edition’ doesn’t support any mods whatsoever, so trying anything like this won’t happen for quite some time on that platform. We need mods. For example, how cool would it be to walk through a tiger enclosure in VR with mods like Mo’ Creatures, Animals Plus or Lots of Mobs installed? Not gonna happen with MEE. We need to keep moving forward, but the removal of the ability to mod is a serious step back.
We’re currently running the necessary tests to get regular Minecraft running at school and all is looking quite well. Pretty soon we plan to be collaborating in VR with our friends down in Wooranna Park and pushing things forward on their vanilla server. The idea is that school visitors can experience virtual reality tours of our builds while our students explain what they’ve been learning and making.
Anyway, the conference was great, and I’m looking forward to our further forays into VR. 🙂