How Irish Students Use Oculus Rift VR in the Classroom
“Shifts in students’ learning style will prompt a shift to active construction of knowledge through mediated immersion.”-Chris Dede
The theory of constructivist-based learning, according to Dr. Seymour Papert, “is grounded in the idea that people learn by actively constructing new knowledge, rather than having information ‘poured’ into their heads.”
Moreover, constructionism asserts that people learn with particular effectiveness when they are engaged in constructing personally meaningful artifacts (such as computer programs, animations, 3D modeling, creating spatial environments in virtual reality or building robots).”
Virtual reality, especially when combined with powerful storytelling, allows the student to participate in the story, develop empathy to experiences outside their current realm of understanding and allows them to be fully immersed in their own exploration and learning.
VR Comes of Age in an Irish Classroom
“…students are eager and excited about the project, queuing outside the classroom door in the morning.” -St. Kieran Principal Esther Lambe
Students at St. Kieran’s, a school in the Irish town of Broughal, recently went on a field trip to Clonmacnoise, a nearby site with historic ruins. Nothing unusual or exceptional about that, right? This sort of thing happens in schools around the world, right? But wait — there’s more!
What makes this school field trip unusual is what the students did when they came back to the classroom. The students, part of a virtual reality pilot program in Irish schools, used the MissionV platform to create a virtual model of the Clonmacnoise in OpenSim and then viewed it using Oculus Rift headsets.
A key element of course design that is often overlooked: designing opportunities (both digital and analog) for students to create social bonds (through interaction) is equally as important as the course content or technology used in a project based learning activity.
In this virtual Clonmacnoise example, these 10–12 year old students utilized both technology (maths, scripting, 3D modeling, programming), creative thinking skills (archaeology, history, design) and social skills (project management, collaboration, face-to-face interaction) in a constructivist-based project to create a virtual reality experience.
In short, all learning is rooted in relationships. Not technology. Social interaction will continue to be at the heart of any effective constructivist-based or virtual learning environment.