Creating Personalized Virtual Experiences
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Creating Personalized Virtual Experiences

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How a group of high school students used VR to bring their coursework to life.

The most exciting possibility that Immersive Technologies bring are to accelerate and supplement learning in ways that simply haven’t been possible, practical, or scalable before.

Students are now able to showcase their imagination, creativity and content mastery in new ways, allowing teachers to recognize the extent of their understanding, and classmates to learn in an intensely immersive experience.

VR allows students to showcase their imagination, creativity and content mastery in new ways Click To Tweet

This was in fact one of the themes that emerged from the Immersive Learning Showcase at the 2018 Global Education and Skills Forum, (GESF) where one of the discussions explored how virtual storytelling could be leveraged as a learning tool in many interesting ways:

 

 

As more people start using the technologies like VR, we will see it become an increasingly personalized tool. And that is exactly how a group of 3 students at Beaver Country Day School – Mila Contreras, Samantha Shapiro and Annika Hardy – used the InstaVR platform to create an experience that showcased their research in a unique way to their entire class.

The key difference in using VR, they explain, is that their audience was able to engage with the experience on their own terms, choosing the path they liked best as they experienced the topics.

As more people start using the technologies like VR, we will see it more of a personalized tool than a pre-established experience Click To Tweet

Yolanda Wilcox Gonzalez – the 10th Grade History Teacher responsible for the course the project stemmed from – recalls the experience that first showed her the power of VR to engage students through creating an empathetic bond with the experience. In 2016, they visited an immersive technology exhibit from the international group Doctors Without Borders, which (similarly to the AR experience by the International Red Cross recently featured on Tech Trends) highlighted the global refugee crisis through the lens of those who are displaced on a daily basis.

“Their exhibit exposed my students to the plight of the reality refugees experience from the moment they are confronted with being forcibly displaced from their homes due to war, extreme conflict and / or violence. As we went through each exhibit, students were faced with having to make choices around what to take, what to give up and what was most important for survival as we journeyed across borders with the hope of reaching a refugee camp. Once finished with our simulation, students entered a 30 foot diameter dome which projected an immersive 360° film of locations throughout the world where we saw the reality of the people and places where issues displacement and the refugee crisis were currently happening.”

Gonzalez says that there are many pedagogical opportunities to be explored at the intersection of using immersive technologies and promoting empathy in classroom practices, another key theme that emerged at the GESF Immersive Learning Showcase:

Many pedagogical opportunities to be explored at the intersection of using immersive and promoting empathy in classroom practices Click To Tweet

 

“I believe that immersive technology could be used to create an environment that people would most likely not experience otherwise. If young students were placed in an environment where living conditions are hard, at a young age they were faced with the questions “what can we do to help?” rather than reading about it, they are less likely to brush the problem aside,” says Mila Contreras.

Immersive technologies can go beyond telling someone about the past and actually show them what it was like Click To Tweet

Shapiro says the best way for teachers to support this learning process is to encourage students to be creative. “The way we came up with this idea was that we knew the basics of technology and coding from school and then we were assigned an open-ended project and instructed to be creative. Given these same guidelines for any assignment, I think students could come up with some really diverse innovations.”

The best way for teachers to support learning with Immersive Technology is to encourage students to be creative Click To Tweet

“Immersive technologies can go beyond telling someone about the past and actually show them what it was like. Experiencing something, rather than being told about something, is more powerful and more likely to be something you remember,” agrees Annika Hardy. “When you learn about something through an immersive technology like virtual reality, you are given the opportunity to not just be told something but to actually live the lessons. It might make more of an impact on students because instead of memorizing material they can create a memory of their own.”

Hardy says that working with immersive technologies allowed her to use and connect all her interests: art, problem-solving and people. “The creative aspect of designing a virtual reality experience is similar to creating a piece of art or directing a movie. You have to make creative decisions that make the viewer’s experiences reflect your message. The technological piece of virtual reality allows me to use math and coding to experiment and problem solve until I get the outcome I want. The social aspect of immersive technology gives me an opportunity to work with the emotion and psychology behind the virtual reality experience.”

The creative aspect of designing a virtual reality experience is similar to creating a piece of art or directing a movie Click To Tweet

The experience opened Hardy’s eyes to how much she could accomplish with these tools, and she says it inspired her to consider a career working with immersive tech to help people in need.

“Schools can facilitate creative thinking by giving students the time to experiment and create projects that center around invention and art,” continues Hardy. “I feel that immersive technology offers a hands-on, more interactive way for students to learn. For me, I have always been captured and intrigued by subjects that I am passionate about, but that are also presented to me in new ways. That’s the information that has really stuck with me and I feel that Virtual Reality offers the same engagement. Next, I would like to combine my interests in fashion design and social justice and use Virtual Reality to create another experience.”

Teachers need to be given opportunities to learn how to utilize the technology for bringing mixed reality into the classroom environment Click To Tweet

“When teachers take on the role of facilitator in classroom, students are provided with an educational opportunity to engage with themes and topics from the course that focuses on their interests while at the same time providing students with multiple access points for learning about topics across a given theme. Students become more engaged, take ownership for their experience and become inspired to dig deeper into learning when they too are part of the equation,” concludes Gonzalez. “Immersive technologies will certainly play a role in the future of education but teachers need to be given opportunities in which they too are exposed to learning how to utilize the technology that allows them to learn about the instructional practice for bringing mixed reality into the classroom environment.”

Tech Trends’  Virtual Reality Consultancy services offers support for companies looking to get a foothold in the growing Mixed Reality spectrum and enhance their brand strategy with immersive technologies. 

Alice Bonasio is a VR Consultant and Tech Trends’ Editor in Chief. She also regularly writes for Fast Company, Ars Technica, Quartz, Wired and others. Connect with her on LinkedIn and follow @alicebonasio on Twitter.

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Also published on Medium.