Virtual Reality (VR) is a term used to describe Computer Generated (CG) 3-dimensional environments that allow the user to view and interact with immersive alternate realities. Instead of watching a film or playing a game on a screen, VR actually brings participants inside of the 3D world or experience. Using a headset like Google Cardboard or Oculus, viewers can experience a virtual environment almost as if they were really there.

There are plenty of VR 101 guides available that cover the technical components of this technology. This toolkit has been designed for educators to understand the basics in order to bring our VR programs and learning pedagogy into your classroom, including:

Virtual Reality

Technology 

 
 

Full Immersion, Computer Generated (CG) VR

Fully immersive CG VR experiences are developed using 3D computer animation applications. This category of VR involves today’s most advanced technology, using Head-Mounted Displays (HMDs) and additional accessories like fiber-optic gloves, controllers, camera sensors, and eye-tracking systems that allow the user full interactivity with their 3D environment. Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive are the first companies to put locomotion at the very center of a VR system

Cinematic VR

Cinematic VR is emerging into the mainstream as the most easily accessible form of immersive VR today. Also known as 360-degree video, these experiences are presented in what is known as stereoscopic 3D and are becoming a popular new option in filmmaking and media.

Desktop VR (360 Video)

360° Video Desktop VR is the least immersive option. Desktop VR uses a monitor for its display and interactivity with the environment is available using outside controls, like a mouse or keyboard. Using a standalone device (like a tablet or PC), viewers see an environment in which they can alter the point of view, choosing up, down, and side-to-side direction. Desktop VR allows us to interact with videos and become more involved in situations that we otherwise may not ever experience. While immersion quality is lacking, this is the most cost-effective and widely available type of VR today

Head Mounted

Displays

Low-cost: Google Cardboard/Other cardboard devices

Cost: $10-12, can use with any personal celluar device

Where to purchase: Amazon, Google Cardboard

Google cardboard was a product of Google’s 20 percent initiative and was intended to drive interest and development in the VR space. At only $10-$25, Google Cardboard is the lowest entry point into VR and is compatible with any smartphone equipped with the necessary motion sensors. 

Mid-Range: Samsung Gear VR

Cost: $99, + Samsung Galaxy S7, S7 Edge, Note5, S6, or S6 Edge.

Where to purchase: Samsung, Best Buy  

Samsung and Oculus teamed up to create the Samsung Gear VR, one of the first consumer headsets. The Gear VR uses a Samsung mobile device to power the HMD rather than a PC’s Central Processing Unit (CPU), and sells for only $99 not including the compatible phone. 

High-cost:  Oculus Rift

Cost: $599

Where to purchase: Oculus Rift

The Oculus Rift is a close second to the Vive at a slightly more affordable price of $599. Oculus has yet to release hardware for room-scale tracking, and currently uses an Xbox One controller for environment interaction. Both of these devices offer a 110-degree Field of View (FOV), which is just shy of the 120-degree FOV of the human eye. Both headsets have a 2160 x 1200 resolution.

High-cost: HTC Vive

Cost: $799

Where to purchase: HTC Vive

HTC Vive is the most advanced HMD available today and is also the most expensive, retailing at $799. The Vive is powered by a PC and includes motion controllers and camera sensors, allowing room-scale motion tracking.



Bringing the Experience to the 

Classroom

The real benefit of VR as an educational tool lies in its ability to promote active learning. Research has shown that while we only remember about 20% of what we hear and 30% of what we see, we are able to remember up to 90% of what we do or simulate, which tells us that that teaching through VR is considerable more effective than many conventional methods.

While incorporating virtual reality into your lesson plan might seem like a daunting task, it neither has to be complicated nor expensive. Google Cardboard and Desktop VR are both affordable and easily accessible options that are being widely used in classrooms around the world today.

GET STARTED! 

We’ve outlined four steps below to bring our VR curriculum into your classroom.

 
 

1. DOWNLOAD THE GNG VR APP GET STARTED! 

 
 
 
 
Coming to the Apple store soon

iPhone/iPad: Requires iOS 9.0 or later. Compatible with iPhone 5s or later. //Gen 5 or later // Android: 4.1 and up

**Download the vr experiences onto your phone. You will not be able to stream them live to avoid data overage charges!

 

2. CHOOSE THE HARDWARE

For hardware, there are a variety of available headsets on the market today that are suitable for low, medium, and high price points. Reference GNG’s HMD Guide. In addition, you will need a compatible CPU, which can come in the form of a smartphone or PC depending on your HMD. You will also need headphones. When making the decision about type and quantity of headsets, we have a few ideas to choose from. GNG’s VR curricula is designed so you will only need a minimum of FIVE(5) Google Cardboards, the lowest financial entry point. Follow the icon to the left in our curriculum.

3. CHOOSE CLASSROOM LAYOUT

STATION-BASED

GNG’s lesson plans require a minimum of five VR headsets. Purchase five Google Cardboards for your class. In your lesson, incorporate a VR experience as a supplemental station and have your students rotate through several activities, using VR to enhance the experience.

DESKTOP VR/ 360 VIDEO

You are a 1:1 school, you can download the GNG app and access the experience through a tablet. This is not fully immersive, but will provide exciting 360 simulations.

1:1 HMD

You have a classroom’s worth of Google Cardboards, you can guide all students simultaneously through the VR film. Reflect on the experience as a class and channel their thoughts and ideas into a reflection paper or group activity.

STREAMING

You have one mid- to high-end  devices has streaming capabilities that enable a shared experience. This works especially well if you want to frequently incorporate VR into your lessons but do not have the time or funds to organize individual experiences for the entire class: allow one student to go through an experience in VR.

4. SETTING THE ENVIRONMENT 

GNG’s VR curricula typically focuses on themes that intersect across cross-cultural learning and global awareness. The experience may elicit a range of emotions from their own experiences as a way to connect with and share the emotions of those in the virtual space. Preparing your students for the empathy-based experience is highly encouraged and setting expectations is critical to providing a high impact VR experience. Before your students begin the immersion, here are some tips that can help prepare them to enter into the virtual space.

  • Setting expectations of place and space:  “Virtual Reality is a technology that will momentarily transport you into another place. You will essentially be sitting in the front front row of a movie theater, with the entire film wrapped around you.”
  • Avoiding nausea: “VR is a fully immersive experience. You should be able to look left, look right, look behind you, up and down. If you look to fast, you can feel sick. To avoid nausea, take your time exploring the virtual space.”
  • Emotional Triggers: “VR immersions can potentially make you feel a range of emotions depending on the content: from sadness, to fear, to laughter, to happiness. Your ability to connect with these feelings and understand is called ‘empathy’. We will continue to explore this throughout the program.
  • Post Immersion: “When you are done, avoid talking to your classmate immediately. Give yourself a minute or two to situate back into the classroom space.”

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

As the VR ecosystem grows, so do the options for educational content. Below is a list of additional Resources to further explore your options for implementing virtual reality. Here are three broad categories for application:

Exploration & Discovery:

From visiting famous landmarks to watching pivotal moments in history to traveling into space, virtual field trips have emerged as an incredibly popular educational tool. This is especially useful for science and history classes. Some apps to get started with:

Film & Storytelling:

360 Videos have become widely popular, now being featured at festivals to the likes of Sundance and Tribeca. Numerous apps provide this content, but some we like are:

Creation & Interaction:

If you want your students to be a little bit more interactive with their virtual environment, you have a number of options like: