Exploring the World with VR Technology
While much of the talk around the district is focused on the one-to-one iPad technology, students in Jennifer Summers’ Environmental Science class at Elkhart Memorial are experiencing new worlds through a different type of technology: VR (virtual reality) technology using Google Cardboard and iPods.
“Students are using VR to explore the world’s different biomes,” said Summers. “Biomes are large ecological areas with similar characteristics, such as tropical rainforest and deserts. Using this technology, they can walk through the forest or drive through the African savanna.”
The use of VR technology is an extension of what the students are learning in Summers’ class. Small groups are working together to profile a specific biome on a poster, then they visit one another’s posters, and explore the biome through the use of VR.
“Because we live in Indiana, it’s difficult for us to experience each of these unique biomes in person,” said Summers. “By using virtual reality, my students are able to further their understanding of how the Earth varies depending on where they are. They get to explore a place they likely have never seen before, in a fun and interesting way.”
The Google Cardboard and iPod Touch devices are owned by the district and available for teachers to check out through their school media centers.
This is Summers’ first year using the VR technology, but she is already envisioning continued use as her class progresses.
“I plan on having my students use VR throughout the year as we move through different units,” said Summers. “For example, when we study human populations, I’d like my students to be transported to different cities around the world to see how the population differences impact the environment around them. VR is great for any activity where students would benefit from being ‘transported’ somewhere else in the world. The kids love getting to ‘explore the tropical rainforest’ or ‘hike through the desert’. VR technology allows kids to stand in the shoes of someone else, even if it’s only for a short amount of time.”