Virtual Reality (VR) as a New Educational Paradigm

Several virtual reality options are available for classrooms. Today’s guest, Enrique Cachafeiro talks about the hardware, software options, and future of virtual reality. He also discusses how educators can join the innovators who are crafting and exploring this new education paradigm today. If you’re interested in VR, today’s show is a must listen.

Today’s sponsor: Metaverse is a free simple augmented reality tool. Students can program. You can also use and create breakout educational experiences. See or download the Metaverse app today.

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Below is an enhanced transcript, modified for your reading pleasure. For guests and hyperlinks to resources, scroll down.


Enhanced Transcript

VR as a new educational paradigm

Link to show:
Date: Thursday, December 7, 2017

Note: Thank you, Enrique, for providing the photos and graphics in these enhanced show notes. They are examples of things he is using and that he has presented about virtual reality.

Vicki: Virtual Reality is a new education paradigm.

Enrique Chachafeiro @@8bitbiologist is an amazing presenter. I have to give a hat tip to Dr. Lisa Durff, who is my research assistant. She saw Enrique present in Second Life recently about how we can really change things using Virtual Reality.

So, Enrique, why do you think that Virtual Reality is going to change everything in education?

Why do you think Virtual Reality is going to change everything?

Enrique: Well, I think it has a number of advantages over other education technologies right now.

The biggest reason, I think, it’s the tool to go to, is the ability for it to be in the cloud and accessible to a large number of students and to bring an unparalleled educational experience to them that you can’t re-create in the classroom.

Vicki: So what are some of your favorite examples when you’re trying to convince people that this is a great model?

Enrique: Well, some examples that I’ve either done or suggested to them in the past have been…

For example, if you’re studying lakes in earth science, you know how many times can you get a classroom out to a lake to study the science of the lake. In Virtual Reality, you can do that whenever you want to.

In Second Life, I’ve visited the surface of Mars, for example. I visited the Smithsonian’s Rocket Exhibit that they have in Second Life.

A number of other things that can happen a lot easier and a lot faster — for any school that has access to the internet.

Great examples of VR, not just for schools with funding.

It doesn’t have to be just the schools that are close enough to a museum, or just the schools that have the funds to be able to send the kids to a lake, or to get the supplies or to get the kit.

All of a sudden, all you need is that access to get into the world, and then the sky’s the limit. You can really bring all kinds of experiences to kids anywhere in the country.

Vicki: There’s some incredible things you can do.

I know I was in Dubai recently at the EduTEch Conference with my students. We were trying out Google Expedition with a full classroom kit. They all had on their headsets, and I was able to control things and mark things in the sky. They were like in space.

And it’s almost hard to get your arms around, isn’t it?

Enrique: Yeah. Yeah. The possibilities are… We’ve just begun to scrape the surface.

There’s much more development to be done in the future.

With the headsets that they have now, the experiences are fairly limited. Those basically kind of field trips that they do? Those are real nice, but I think that there’s a lot more that we can do with it. Make it more immersive. Make the experience more all-inclusive.

Within the virtual environment, you get you learning, you get your assessment, you get your experience. Instead of just making it a part of the instruction, you do almost and entire instruction/lesson within the virtual environment through the tools they have.

So I think we’ve only been scratching at the surface of what they’re doing with it now. I think it has a lot more possibility for the classroom.

Vicki: So, Enrique, one of the challenges I’ve had when I’ve sued VR headsets is actually… I’ve kind of had to appoint a student to be a watcher for the student who is in VR, because they really do lose a sense of the physical world because they feel like they really are in reality.

How does that work in classrooms? I mean I’ve seen people have the kids on stools that turn around. I mean, what’s the way that we handle the fact that I’m in a physical world, but I’m also in a virtual world in a headset?

Enrique: Yeah, you definitely want to keep them seated.

Keep your students seated so they are safe!

Vicki: (laughs)

Enrique: It can be disorienting. You want to be on a chair. Otherwise you’re going to have yourself a whole lot of kids flopping around all over. And that wouldn’t be good. So you want to keep them on a chair. You want to keep the experience kind of contained.

Right now, the experience is a little bit limited with the headsets. You know, you have two tiers of headset, pretty much, at the moment.

That's the high end Oculus Rift or Vive, which require a high-end desktop. If you had one of those in the classroom to play with, it’s not practical. I don’t believe it is practical in the future to use in the classroom. It’s too expensive of a device, you require the desktop, teachers can’t afford that, they don’t have to room for the desktop.

So I think what we’re waiting on, to really have the area explode, VR in education, are the mobile headsets that are running web VR — which we haven’t seen a lot of yet.

Who are the leaders in affordable VR for the classroom?

The technology for the web VR is there, though companies like SineSpace, Edorble, and Amazon just came out with Sumerian — which is based on it’s A-frame technology, which can run virtual worlds on mobile devices.

If you couple that with the cheap Google Cardboard headsets, and now you can have a Virtual Reality experience for — a hundred bucks — versus eight hundred bucks.

Vicki: Help me understand the differences between web VR experiences and like, Google Expedition.

What’s the difference between web VR and Google Expedition?

Enrique: So Google Expedition’s basically takes a 360 image and drops in the middle of it. Or several 360 images. So then you can basically like you were there. They took a camera, they go around and they have these images they took of a place, and then you feel like you’re there. Which is great! And if you haven’t ever been to somewhere, that’s fine.

But what I’m interested in is how do I teach cell biology to a kid? How do I teach Shakespeare to a kid? How do we do instruction?

Visiting places can expand your horizons, and let you visualize some things.

But what I want to do is much more hands-on, much more of, “OK, I want to visit a lake. I want to be able to have the kid dip something into the water, collect the water, look in the microscope for the fauna and the flora, etc.”

I want all that done within the virtual world, even though they’re in a classroom. We don’t have the microscope. We don’t have the equipment here.

But in the virtual environment, we can digitize and simulate that equipment and have the kids do the experience as if we had these thousands of dollars worth of equipment.

In a virtual environment, the kids can experience things as if we had expensive equipment.

To do that, we build a virtual environment like Second Life, where we can have digital microscopes, digital water, digital microbes floating around in the water they can see, etc. Re-create that. Just like Second Life, which runs on a desktop, but with that new technology, have that run on a mobile device that can be in the Google Cardboard so the kids can experience it.

The Google Cardboard devices — you can have a whole classroom set of those, have all the kids involved in the experience. Not just one or two on your very expensive Oculus Rift.

Vicki: OK, so you said it’s not really there yet. Is there anything in web VR that’s heading in the right direction that could help our listeners really kind of get a taste for this exciting technology you’re talking about?

Is any site moving in the right direction? Who should we begin to investigate?

Enrique: Yes. — which is a virtual environment, a virtual world made for instruction. They run on a desktop client, but they have the beta that runs on a browser, so you could run it, say on a Chromebook. Chromebooks only run stuff that’s on browsers.

Another one, SineSpace — which is completely web VR based. So all their virtual worlds — and they’re free to join up — run on browsers.

And the only thing with those two — the thing that is holding them back, I think — is that you’re required to know Unity. Unity is a software required to make games. You make the experience in Unity, and then you export it to the platform, which puts it on the web for you to be able to use.

Most teachers — and I consider myself pretty tech savvy — Unity has a fairly steep learning curve.

Vicki: Yes, it does.

Enrique: And most people don’t have time to do that.

Vicki: I tried it. And it totally kicked my hiney. I couldn’t do it.

Enrique: Yeah.

Vicki: I won’t say I couldn’t do it. I didn’t have enough time to do it. (laughs)

Enrique: Exactly. And you know most teachers won’t. And most teachers don’t have that kind of time. It’s just — we’re not programmers.

But, Amazon just came out with Sumerian, which is a much easier, noncoding based way to make virtual environments like a classroom or a lab or something IN web VR, using their new technology. Now Sumerian is in pre-D only, They sent out a few invites, so it’s still really, really new. However, it runs on Amazon web servers, and it seems to be a really good option to use in the future.

Vicki: Enrique, where do you envision we’ll be in five years with this?

Where will all of this be, in about five years?

Enrique: I’m hoping that within two years, we have the hardware — the hardware is still coming out for this — and the software out there to be able to do this.

But to be honest, it’s a little nebulous because what we don’t have is a group that is really invested in this. I mean, this is not a game. It’s not meant to make money.

The companies that are doing this right now are not making money with it because schools don’t have money. We’ve got to have a different model to use than traditional models because of the environment that we’re working with.

And the other problem is the paradigm. Right now we have a very established, traditional, industrial age paradigm for instruction — that is not budging, for all that we do.

All of the efforts of all the folks like you, like Lisa, like me, and other folks you talk to with innovation.

I was in the classroom for eight years, and I know that everything that I was doing in my classroom — I was hoping that other teachers would model and copy and ask me questions. And that was not the case.

So, it’s going to take a big idea, a big project, to be able to dislodge this traditional paradigm that we have in place. I’m not sure who’s going to be up for it, but I’m hoping they’re out there on the horizon.

Vicki: Enrique, as we finish up, what are the groups and organizations that you are a part of that you feel like ar making progress in this area? So that our listeners who are really excited about the potential can join in.

What groups can listeners follow to learn more?

Enrique: I recently went to the Serious Play Conference. It’s a great conference with a variety of teachers that talk about using games and recent technology to motivate kids and to get them interested. That’s a great group!

And through that particular conference, I met Peggy Sheehy…

Vicki: Oh, I love Peggy! She’s awesome.

Enrique: … who… Yeah, Peggy and Bron. And they introduced me to The Tribe. And The Tribe is a group of innovative educators who gather. We have a group on Facebook and Collaborate. We share ideas. We go to each other’s web conferences, and most importantly, we try to get the best of what we each do and share it with each other so we can hopefully borrow ideas and further the cause. And bring other teachers into it.

Vicki: Well, this is exciting! VR is a new education paradigm. I hope you’re enjoying Hour of Code Week. I hope that you’ll also take a look at VR, and experiment with it. I’ve got a lot to learn. I was excited about Expeditions, and now I love VR, and I’ve got some more things to play with!

So get out there, and play, and enjoy, and be remarkable!

Transcribed by Kymberli Mulford

Bio as submitted

Enrique Cachafeiro has spent the last decade finding ways to evolve the state of the classroom as to take advantage of new instructional technologies and strategies. He specializes in the the introduction of technology into the classroom, the use of innovative strategies such as blended learning and gamified learning, and in helping teachers and administration adopt these into their districts and classrooms.

Blog: Enrique Cachafeiro

Twitter: @8bitbiologist

Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a “sponsored podcast episode.” The company who sponsored it compensated me via cash payment, gift, or something else of value to include a reference to their product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe will be good for my readers and are from companies I can recommend. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” This company has no impact on the editorial content of the show.

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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