Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Using VR to Take a Digital Field Trip

Hello Fellow Educators!
I am so excited to update you all with this quarters learning and new activities! This quarter we read Around the World in Eighty Days.  Last year was my first time ever reading and teaching the novel.  I blogged about it last year in January.

Because I knew how I wanted to change the unit with prereading strategies and our postreading project, I could get more into the novel with my students.  This quarter has been great! I will be the first to admit, AW80D is not my all time favorite novel. It starts off slow and the vocabulary is very difficult. I use several strategies to help my lower level readers. First, all assignments are on Actively Learn. With Actively Learn I have a built in chunking strategy.  I don't want 10 questions on a study guide for a chapter when I can build in 2 to 3 questions throughout the chapter and instantly see who is reading and who is comprehending.  Next, I had the audio from Lit2Go for those who needed to hear it as well. I love this site because it also provides the text with the audio! The third tool I use for differentiation is the graphic novel. I have two NonEnglish Proficient, or NEP, students in my classes. The chunking on AL was too much, and the audio moved too fast, but they were both able to translate and participate in class activities using the graphic novel!

Check out a few of these end of the novel blogs to see how the students liked and anaylzed the novel!

While we were reading I continued to build and strengthen my "Discovering" worksheets from last year allowing the students to journey through LondonIndia, and Japan as Phileas Fogg was.  This year I built in VR!

My colleague Mrs. Jeffrey wrote a Donor's Choose grant for a set of 10 Google Cardboards.  I have been itching to borrow them!  I ran into some problems with them at first.  For instance, I wanted to do a Google Expedition, but I needed 10 devices on our school network, also my iPad would not load the expeditions as an instructor.  I had about three students in each class volunteer their phones for the hour. We couldn't get two of them onto the wifi and one was too old to download the cardboard app.

In the end I split my class into stations with their "Discovering" worksheets and their "Trip of a Lifetime" planning.  This way groups could move and work.  I had two stations set up with the volunteer phones that did work.  Two phones were my phone and my old Galaxy s4 on the school network.  Because I couldn't fully connect to Google Expeditions, I found a couple really wonderful VR 360ยบ videos showing the locations such as the Taj Mahal, and Tokyo, Japan.  I also put two phones onto Google Streetview through Google Cardboard. One was set for Westminster Abbey in London and the other for the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France.

For these two days of working, researching, and exploring in their stations my students couldn't wait until it was their turn to try the Cardboards.  I had students who had seen Oculus Rift in the Verizon store or the Playstation VR, but they knew they couldn't afford it. They hadn't experience VR before.

For one group my student, Stephen, grabbed the cardboard and could not believe it! He was walking around the classroom as he visited the Taj Mahal and said to his group members, "Please, don't make me come back to reality. I want to stay here on the other side of the world!"

The classes were so engaged with their cardboard device as they walked around. I overheard so many excited comments!
"It feels like I'm there."
"Whoa, that's a big church."
"I've always dreamed of being on the Eiffel Tower! I can't believe it's so big!"
"Where else can we go with these?!"

For our second day of work stations I had more students show up with the cardboard app and Streetview downloaded. They told me their parents said they could use their data just for the class period.  I did what I could to quickly search up locations listed in the novel:  London,  Suez, Yokohama, San Francisco, Omaha.  For most classes, I was able to put one Cardboard per group, 7 all together!  In my first hour I had a student show up with his Samsung Gear VR headset.  He asked if he could run the groups in the hallway and show them what his does such as go on a rollercoaster.  I told him he'd miss out on the research time with his group, and this student who is usually disengaged, pulled up his slides presentation on his iPad, and it was mostly done!  He did extra work on it, knowing I would say no if he didn't have work done!  I let him become the teacher in the hallway pulling groups one at a time for a rollercoaster ride.  Did it fit with the novel? No, but the students were trying out new things. They learned that from Phileas Fogg and Passepartout in the novel, of course!

My math teaching partner Mrs. Welch and I sat down and fully created our "Trip of a Lifetime" research project upon completing the novel.  This project will have to be a completely separate blog because it has been amazing!   As the students are working on their "Trip of a Lifetime" projects they are thinking about their VR experiences.  I have a couple who want to search on Streetview and Youtube for VR activities to build into their presentations.  I overheard one saying, "I need to see if there's a VR video for this location in China." Another wants to present to a small group her planned adventures to swim with dolphins.

Ideally every classroom, team, or building would have this set of Google Expeditions from Best Buy with the devices linked to the school network. This way a teacher wouldn't be relying on student phones or data plans. Something I'm thinking of doing is possibly sending a letter home to parents requesting that old phone in the drawer. As long as it's a smartphone that can run the apps, I can use it.  However, many teachers need permissions first to put other devices on the school wifi. If you are an educator, talk with your tech person about it or possibly bring in a mobile hotspot!

I believe this is the next level of exploration for literature and social studies virtual field trips, science experiments, perhaps even math exploration. Students can now look at things and experience them in a different way.  VR devices are already helping to save lives!  Think of the experiences that educators can create with VR in the classroom!

Are you using VR in your classroom?  I'd love to hear about it in the comments or through Twitter!

Thank you for reading,
Andi Adams
English Middle School Mania