These Two School Districts Are Teaching Through Virtual Reality
Back in the day, textbooks were the only teaching tools available to transport students to solar system or foreign lands. Computers and tablets opened more opportunities for educators, and even video games such as MinecraftEdu have been implemented into schools. Now virtual reality is allowing kids to experience planets and historical places like never before.
Students in the San Francisco Unified School District and Polk County Public Schools in Florida are the first to use Nearpod VR virtual reality lesson plans. Using branded Google Cardboards, teachers can send classes on over 25 virtual field trip lessons that will offer first-person tours of the ancient pyramids of Egypt, the caves on Easter Island, the marine biomes of the Great Barrier Reef, Mars, patriotic landmarks across the U.S., and the tallest buildings in the world in Dubai.
Nearpod partnered with 360 Cities for the interactive panoramic images and added that virtual reality content into its existing lesson plan marketplace for K-12 to create the virtual field trip lessons. The virtual reality component of these lessons make up 20-50% of the content and consist of a mix of interactive assessments.
“In addition, teachers can create their own VR lessons by searching for thousands of interactive panoramic images within the Nearpod content tool,” Nearpod co-founder and CEO Guido Kovalskys says. “The possibilities are endless.”
While prices for schools and districts start at $1,000 and go up from there depending on the number of licenses purchased, a select number of schools will receive the content for free.
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Through the support of the Knight Foundation, Marc Benioff, and Krillion Ventures, Nearpod has raised $100,000 in grants to provide public schools access to these VR-based lesson plans, branded Nearpod VR cardboards, and one-on-one teacher support. The company will award grants to 30 to 40 additional schools this year. The San Francisco and Polk County districts are the first recipients of these grants.
Timothy Fung, instructional technology resource at Gordon J. Lau Elementary in San Francisco, says Nearpod VR facilitates collaboration among teacher and students, giving real-time feedback with slides and instant surveys before students do game-play activities.
“Its powerful tool set is usable to instruct across many curricular areas from math to science, from learning a foreign language to health and physical education, similar to MinecraftEdu,” Lau says.
Brandon Farwell, partner at Rothenberg Ventures, which invested in Nearpod, believes virtual reality is a platform that influences numerous verticals broadly across enterprise and consumer.
“360-degree immersive VR, especially in a classroom setting, will revolutionize education methodology,” Farwell says. “Students can affordably be transported to a novel 360-degree medium, whether it’s touring the Smithsonian or learning about the hard sciences like astronomy or anatomy. By using an affordable headset, like the ones Nearpod is providing classrooms, and a smartphone, teachers enable students to unlock their imaginations and enjoy learning.”
With Google (GOOGL) offering affordable Cardboards and Samsung (SSNLF) currently giving away Gear VR mobile devices, there are already millions of mobile virtual reality devices out there. Piper Jaffray forecasts sales of 5 million Gear VR devices this year alone. Google announced a global install base of 5 million Cardboards.
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Over time, more students will have a low-priced mobile virtual reality device at home.
Kovalskys says data from teachers is showing that the “bring your own VR device” movement is gaining traction.
“When you combine that with efforts like ours to make it simple to find and deploy high-quality VR pedagogical content, we’ll see VR a much more commonplace tool in teachers’ toolkits across the nation,” Kovalskys says.