Virtual / Augmented reality and the power of WOW! in the classroom

Computeam

Computeam help schools to improve educational outcomes through the introduction of well-supported technology. They are the creators of the stunning ActiveWorksheet AR resources. In 2016, Computeam won the BETT Award in the Primary Digital Content category for their ActiveWorksheets resource A Journey Through the Maya World!

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Image Credit: Andri Koolme // Flickr Image Credit: Andri Koolme // Flickr

As any teacher knows, it can be difficult to hold the attention of pupils across the entire curriculum. There are subjects that get unruly classrooms to sit up and pay attention, but sometimes you can see their eyes glazing over as you explain number-bonds, or try to get them to focus on a piece of creative writing! Technology offers new and exciting ways to combat this, without putting undue burden on teachers. Here at Computeam we’re passionate about sharing these techniques, something we’ll be doing at our Spring conference in February 2017.

Teaching professionals have long sought for novel ways to capture attention and make subjects exciting by creating “wow-moments”. These are much more than gimmicks, with emerging research into the area suggesting that we all retain more knowledge and enhance our understanding of a topic when a learning experience is coupled with an emotional attachment. This is known as Cognitive Attractor Theory.
 
Over the past decade, technology has helped to enliven classroom teaching with cognitive attractors like projected images and videos, replacing traditional worksheets and textbooks. However, it’s important to recognise that school ICT doesn’t exist in a vacuum. What was impressive five years ago could be commonplace nowadays, and if pupils are used to seeing ultra-HD displays and rich graphical interfaces at home while gaming, they will be unimpressed with an ageing school projector. The cutting edge of sensory or immersive learning is now best represented by the resurgence of virtual reality (VR) and its real-world cousin augmented reality (AR).
 
We’ve been at the forefront of technological change in classrooms for the last 15 years, and are now working with clients to explore the potential of fully immersive VR technologies and hybrid-AR approaches. The technology is moving incredibly fast, with major players flocking to launch their own VR platforms, from the Facebook-backed Oculus Rift to the Microsoft HoloLens (To see a vision of what the latter could mean for our lives, watch this video). Like any other new technology, it is vital that we consider the classroom context and intended purpose before anyone rushes out to buy a class-set of VR headsets.


There is a lot of hype around VR and AR technologies at the moment, and it will be a while before it becomes affordable and applicable to schools. Having said that, whenever we show teachers our AR resources, there is an audible gasp, and I’ve heard more than one person say that this is nothing short of bringing magic into the classroom.
 
There is no denying the power of Wow in the classroom! VR and AR technologies have massive teaching and learning potential, while history has shown that costs come down over time. We at Computeam believe that it is well worth spending some time looking at applications and consulting with schools on where the benefits might lie. If you are interested in being part of this discussion, then please come along to our Spring Conference in Manchester, where we will be showcasing immersive learning techniques. You can register on the event page.

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