Episode 3- Show Notes

VR in Education Episode 3-Starting a VR Club

Welcome everyone to VR in Education.  In episode 3, we will look at how to set up a vr club at school.

Schools these days strive to be more progressive.  Despite many thought leaders like Sir Ken Robinson advocating the importance of fostering creativity and innovation, standardized tests seem to cripple any major shifts away from content towards a more conceptual and contextual approach to teaching and learning.  Yet, now is not the time to give up this battle for innovation.

I recently read Ernest Cline's science fiction novel, Ready Player One, which is about a protagonist, Wade Watts, who immerses himself in a Virtual World called the Oasis to disconnect for the real world.  Wade has a mission in the Oasis: to find an Easter egg hidden inside the OASIS by its creator, James Halliday.  In the novel, Cline paints a picture of what virtual reality school is like in the Oasis.   Teachers were able to load up a simulation during world history where they could visit and King Tutu’s tomb, and students in biology class could travel through a human heart and watch it pumping from the inside.  In astronomy class, students could visite each of Jupiter’s moons and stand of the volcanic surface to feel the pull of gravity.  

Whilst there is no denying that immersive vr technology can make these amazing experiences likely and possible in today’s classrooms, teachers need a place to start.  To get their “sea-legs” or “feet wet” before they sail the ship.  One way to do this once you have made the leap to purchase immersive vr headsets like the HTC vive or the Oculus rift is to start an afterschool club.   So in this episode I will talk about my experiences in setting up and starting a VR club in your school.  

  1. Why have a VR CLub?

Teachers don’t always have to be the experts.  By having a VR club in the school you can engage students in the hardware and software applications in hopes to get their ideas, develop agencies/ownership and brainstorm with them how immersive VR might be used to enhance the curriculum.  By giving students the opportunity to “sandbox” or play they will help you make connections to the classroom.  

2. Be Clear on the VR Clubs mission or Mandate

When advertising and marketing your VR club connect it to learning.  Try and steer clear of having a club just for gaming purposes.  Focus your club on one of the following areas:  VR as a tool to promote and enhance:  1) problem solving; 2) creation;  3) building empathy.  When I launched my VR  club at school I initially focused my first round of sessions on problem solving.  We had 6-7 after school sessions and every second session students are able to try a different problem solving game.  In later podcast I will talk about creation and empathy type games.  

3.  What types of problem solving applications should I start with?

Finding and purchasing games and applications is never easy as the list on the STEAM, VIVEport and the oculus store website is growing exponentially each month.  I try and look at the popularity of it and the reviews and ratings.  Additionally, I can search various games up on youtube to listen to how the game is played to ensure it is not violent, inappropriate or too difficult or complex.  If you are just getting started, these are my top recommendations for starting out a vr club with a focus on problem solving:

  1. Fantastic contraption-  Fantastic Contraption is surreal building game. You can create life-sized machines as tall as you can reach, then send them whirling, flinging, and trundling off to solve puzzles on the other side of a floating island. Your task is simple: get the squishy purple ball to that goal off in the distance, or above you, or on the other side of that gap. And your tools are elegantly minimalist: spinning wheels and stretchable rods. But the solutions are endless, and there are no right or wrong ones.

  2. Form- Dr. Devin Eli is a brilliant physicist at the global technology mega-conglomerate Mindful Laboratories. Working in seclusion at an atmospheric research facility in the Alaskan wilderness, Dr. Eli is on the brink of uncovering the meaning behind a mysterious signal coming from a secret artifact - The Obelisk.  Playing as the gifted Dr. Eli, you have superhuman powers of geometric visualization - the unintended consequence of a childhood trauma. Use your powers to follow the signal through The Obelisk and explore dream-like memories to unlock puzzles in your own mind. This path could lead you to a new existence…or it could leave you trapped in your past forever.

  3. The Gallery  (Episode 1: Call of Starseed)--A strange message left by your mischievous twin sister, Elsie, will draw you into a mysterious journey filled with bizarre characters, a sinister presence and awe inspiring adventure. Along the way, you will be assisted by a helpful yet unhinged Professor who may harbor ulterior motives of his own. Your search for Elsie will lead you to a cosmic machine that wields incredible power and it will test your will against the forces of a shadowy figure who resides within it.  RATED T (Teens and up)  Teen ratings indicate some scary or intense content.

VR club has been a huge success at our school.  I would like to share with you an interview of one of our students who gives his thoughts on vr club.

As you can hear from this interview, Sam likes VR club because it feels Safe.  If you read between the lines, he appreciated the idea that there were not grades and therefore less pressure and more allowance to fail.  I recently listened to a podcast from edsurge, interviewing a psychologist, Art Markman from Austin, who emphasized that really good learning should be failure driven.  Yet, schools focus more on punishing students who make mistakes through summative grading practices.  In the VR world failure is always an option and mistakes are part of the game.  Next, week we will look at Part 2 of vr clubs and focus on how they might promote a culture of creating.  Thank you to everyone who listens to this podcast and as always, I invite you to leave feedback to me or contact me on twitter (@cfrehlichteach) for continue the conversation.  Bye for now.  

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