An EdTech Innovation Center in Israel brings together teachers, students, developers and researchers, as a collaborative team, in order to explore VR learning potential. It is an exciting, unfamiliar, full-of-opportunities journey, but still in its beginnings.
Building a good experience is hard — Virtual Reality is a new medium. It is easy to “convince” educators about its WOW effects but in order to become a significant educational product, it has to offer a strong pedagogical value.
The winner is not taking all — Educators expect new products to provide a full solution. Educational VR experiences should be focused on a specific pedagogical learning objective in order to be effective.
Testing, Testing, Testing — We are all still learning about this new environment (VR) and therefore it is essential to keep the user (student/teacher) as an intrinsic part of the development process.
VR is a trigger for learning — MindCET R&D VR development experience shows that VR is ready to be a significant learning experience as long as it is contextualized within a pedagogical sound environment. VR learning objects need to be offered to the educators as part of a lesson plan.
A glimpse into our R&D Experience
When we first came into the VR world we tried to understand what value it could bring to education. We chose to focus on content related to human values and STEM, build different experiences and understand the added value that VR could bring to both fields. There were not enough VR educational experiences with students we could learn from. Our R&D team kept a close relationship with users, to learn from their feedback. We knew one thing: If it could be simulated on the computer, and VR would not bring a significant added value to the user, it was not worth it!
Empathy Skills & VR
The user is immersed in a first-person experience by walking through a school hallway. As the user approaches other avatars involved in social activities, doors are closed in his/her face. The user is led to feel the insult of being rejected, yet he/she doesn’t understand why. This lack of knowledge increases the helplessness of the user in the situation. Only at the end does the user learn that his/her color is different than the other avatars.
Added pedagogical value: The sense of presence in a VR experience makes the user realistically feel strong emotions and therefore enables him/her to better empathize with others in similar situations. The experience serves as a trigger for discussion in educational settings.
I am the other
The user is immersed in a familiar environment, but sees everything from a different point of view; this awkward experience makes the user try to find an explanation. During the experience there are several occurrences that lead the user to understand that he/she is a dog. This first-person experience forces the user to perceive the environment from the perspective of the other.
Added pedagogical value: This experience offers a unique opportunity for the user to understand a familiar environment from the perspective of another being. This facilitates a conversation led by educators on empathy and understanding others. From our testing we learnt that it helps students understand that different beings perceive the environment from different points of view.
Physics & VR
Playground on different planets
Teaching the concept of gravity is not an easy task for teachers. The students are bound by their life experience and find it difficult to understand the behavior of objects in different physical environments. In order to facilitate learning we’ve developed a playground taking place on Earth, Jupiter and the Moon. Students can swing, jump, and play, experiencing how these activities feel under different physical environmental conditions. By using a VR headset the user can control different aspects of the scenarios like the mass, height and velocity.
Added pedagogical value: By experiencing the behavior of different environments, the student goes through a vivid, and not merely conceptual, explanation of physics theories. This understanding helps students improve their intuition regarding the physics theories and thus their ability to solve problems. From our testing, it helped students explain physics laws intuitively before conceptually learning them.