How can young students create VR content? Recommendations from Emily Pascual, 2016 Hackathon Winner

By Emily Pascual, Winner of the 2016 MIT VR/AR Hackathon

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Team KidCity VR

Think about VR as its own medium

Context is an important part of this question. What is the setting, duration, and goal for the student and you? Will this be in a classroom environment, at home, club project with many students or 1–1? What is the budget for camera equipment and software, operating devices, and VR headset? Out of all the VR headsets available today, the Google Cardboard or headsets with Cardboard-level immersion is recommended for young students.

If you are planning to integrate VR into a lesson what overall goal and purpose does it serve? What makes VR the ideal creation tool to use? Ask yourself what the, “why.” This will help you and the students understand the scope and enjoy the process. VR allows your students to put their imagination into a brand new medium, and immerse themselves in the final creation. The best way to decide what kind of content you want to make is to sample some from YouTube 360/180, Cardboard games on the app stores, and educational focused content from EdTech companies.

Ideation and brainstorming with young students

When creating in VR you can introduce young students to design thinking. It may be best to make the students play a bigger part of the ideation and design process before getting them working in Unity, C# code, or 3D modeling — especially elementary aged students and younger. From my experience making eBooks with young students, using traditional non-technical creation tools has been the most effective way to start.

Have students begin with hand drawing, painting, free-writing, getting inspiration online and concepting before diving into 3D modeling or scripting. Likewise go through planning a video, with blocking and script writing, if desired, before firing off a 360 camera project. These planning and production steps will help the project gain a vision and makes the VR creation a clearer and more simplified process.
Remember to set time limits on each stage. This will keep the project progressing, as a colleague of mine says, “Art is never finished, it is only abandoned.”

Using Unity

  • Download the latest version of Unity
  • Have a topic ready for them or begin brainstorming ideas and objects for their VR creation
  • Make a final list of objects, or assets, that will be created for the VR project (either done by the instructor or with the student)
  • Use the a free 3D modeling and rendering software,
  • Google made this process a lot more novice friendly with Blocks, check it out for simple 3D modeling (Note: it only works with Vive or Rift, systems recommended for adult and teenage use)
  • Blender or a student version of Maya you can get that for free.
  • These two require learning the basics of 3D modeling, I would stick with primitives like creating a snowman to begin.

Using 360 Video

  • Buy a durable 360° camera that is known to be easy to use and won’t break if a child is operating it
  • Try this under $100 camera that is an add-on to your smartphone
  • Decide if you want to learn to stitch the footage or buy a camera that does that for you (prices vary)
  • Plan where and when to shoot, keep in mind that the camera will capture the entire view when planning
  • Try one of these 360 sketching app

The most popular uses for VR content involve narratives, storytelling, and games. Show and teach students elements of storytelling prior to getting started. Students can create all new worlds or recreate something they already have experience or have learned about. A group VR project can be a great way to combine skill sets in children, quicken the production process, and practice social learning! Treating VR as a form of Project Based Learning(PBL) would be a great combination of pedagogy and blended learning.

Did you use these tips for VR in the classroom? Write to me if this was helpful, you have questions, or an idea in VR you want to see made for students:

  • Follow me on Twitter for more on education and VR!
  • Read more about 360 video and VR content for students here

Hacking VR

The Reality, Virtually, Hackathon brings together…

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