As augmented and virtual reality is becoming increasingly accessible and affordable, why not consider adding a little magic to teaching and learning?
Do you remember when the internet and the web were the preserve of wizards and gurus, while regular folk went about their lives largely unaware they existed? Can you remember the shiver that went down your spine the first time you saw your first ‘www.’ in the wild?
For many of us in tech at the time, it felt a bit like the parallel universes of the wizards and muggles in the Harry Potter stories – with the delight of being part of an underground movement with its own sigils and shibboleths. That’s where we are right now with virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), on the cusp of another giant leap that could transform our lives as much as the web did, if not more.
The early web over promised and under delivered, as anyone who ever had to wait for their modem to connect will remember. So many false starts and reboots as the internet evolved from a research network into a public service. Local loops were unbundled, fibre pulled, and web technologies developed to the point where complex apps, such as Google Maps, became possible.
Today, we’re at an equivalent inflexion point with virtual and augmented reality, as common software platforms, including Apple’s ARKit and Google’s ARCore, appear, and headset and video capture hardware is becoming commoditised.
Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes
An area that’s particularly interesting in education is technology that help learners experience situations from other people’s perspectives. Let’s say you’re a student thinking about going to college, contemplating course and career choices, or just planning a holiday – now you can use virtual reality to see through the eyes of someone doing everything from visiting Machu Picchu to fixing the hybrid engine on an electric car. And, with 360 degree video capture, you can create your own immersive experiences using just a camera, a mobile phone, some free software and a £5 cardboard headset.
Perhaps even more profoundly, we can use this technology to help people better understand the lived experience of someone who is not like them. Picture experiencing life as a climate refugee, an autistic person, or someone from a different race or religion.
The Open University’s Virtual Inclusion project (below), is a great example - an interactive experience that lets you get into the shoes of three schoolchildren facing discrimination, aiming to help to build empathy and social inclusion.
If you are viewing this on a desktop PC, you will need to move your mouse around to experience the full 360 degree view. You can choose between three different characters each facing social discrimination in their lives. At the end of each, there will be a choice for you to make as to how to respond to this discrimination either as a viewer or the character.
To find out more or try the mobile app version, which you can use with a virtual reality headset, visit the Open University’s Virtual Inclusion project page.
Our latest edtech challenge (running until 31 July 2019) is looking at ideas for how immersive technology could be transformative - in this case looking at research practices. We’ve also recently kicked off a Jisc project looking at how immersive technologies can help with teaching and learning, and what we can do to help support our members.
To help catalyse the conversation we created Natalie_4.0, an immersive virtual experience of what a day in the life of a student ten years from now might look like. We’d like to hear from you about how you think these technologies could add a little magic to teaching, learning and the student experience.
Catch Jisc’s session on ‘virtual and augmented reality in education’ and meet Natalie_4.0 at Connect More events UK-wide until 4 July. Registration is open now.