VR – First Impressions

20190901_103040-croppedDuring the week I took possession of an HP Windows Virtual Reality (WMR) headset with which to experiment with, courtesy of ThinkBlue.    It has been a busy week, being the week before the school restarts, so I haven’t had quite as much time to experiment with the equipment as I would have liked however I thought I would share some initial thoughts.

One of the first Apps I tried was Tiltbrush and I must admit I loved the ability to paint and create in 3D space.   Being able to walk around a 3D creation, to zoom in and out, allows a level of freedom I haven’t quite experienced before when creating artwork on a computer.   I will admit I am far from an artist, as such I will be very interested in seeing how students and also teachers within the Art department make use of Tiltbrush and in the artwork they may end up creating.

The main potential for VR, for me, lies in platforms which allow creativity such as Tiltbrush as opposed to preproduced content which the user simply works through.   That said I had to try 1943 Belin Blitz a VR experience focussing around a Lancaster bomber crew taking part in the world war 2 bombing of Berlin.    I will admit to enjoying the experience and can see how it might add to student learning and engagement in a topic.   That said, it suffers from the usual issue of preproduced content in that you simply work through it.    Having reached the end that’s it finished as its unlikely you will revisit the content meaning it is difficult to justify the high cost of VR equipment simply to run through preproduced content.

Blocks by Google was my next app to try.   Like Tiltbrush it is creative platform which allows you to produce 3 dimensional designs using geometric shapes.    I found thee platform very intuitive and easy to use.   Having followed the basic tutorial which is provided I was quickly able to progress and start building my own designs, in my case choosing to create a military fort.    Sadly, I only had a limited amount of time to spare so only started to get to grips with what was possible.  Again, I cant wait to see what students and design technology students in particular are able to create.

Now my main focus is on how VR might be usable in schools however I couldn’t resist the temptation to engage in a little gaming.    Beat Saber was my choice of games and I will admit that it is an excellent and engaging little game.    Within no time I was slashing away at coloured blocks all to the rhythm of the music included within the game.    I didn’t quite expect the game to be quite as much fun as it is plus also never expected it to involve such physical effort.    I found myself sweating after on a short time of playing.    If looking for a tenuous link to education maybe I could link it to either Physical Education (PE) or maybe to Dance?

I have only had the VR headset now for a few days and within that have only managed a couple of hours of use.   I can already see some initial ideas as to how this technology might be used in schools.    A couple of ideas that have occurred to me already are how students might be able to create their own VR environments for others to explore or how VR could be used to create 3D components that then could either be incorporated into gaming experiences.    I look forward to exploring VR more over the coming months.

 

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Author: garyhenderson2014

Gary Henderson is currently the Director of IT in an Independent school in the UK. Prior to this he worked as the Head of Learning Technologies working with public and private schools across the Middle East. This includes leading the planning and development of IT within a number of new schools opening in the UAE. As a trained teacher with over 15 years working in education his experience includes UK state secondary schools, further education and higher education, as well as experience of various international schools teaching various curricula. This has led him to present at a number of educational conferences in the UK and Middle East.

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