Have you ever taken your family swimming with humpback whales? Thanks to the virtual reality experience at the Seattle Aquarium, you can. The immersive VR experience features moving seats and VR dive goggles that provide a full 360-degree view of underwater life for whale mothers and their calves. Users also learn about conservation and the importance of keeping a healthy distance from real whales in Puget Sound-area waters.
The aquarium’s VR move is a good example of the trend we’ve been seeing at Seattle-based education research organization foundry10. Recently, we’ve seen a growing interest among educators to learn more about how they can use VR and other advanced immersive technologies to support student learning.
To learn more about the whale experience and other indoor VR learning activities for families and educators in the Greater Seattle area, check out The VR Learning Map, an interactive tool created by University of Washington student Kriti Vajjhula, as part of an internship with foundry10.
The VR Learning Map features location information for permanent museum exhibits such as The Museum of Flight’s Spacequest VR, traveling exhibits such as Dinos Alive, and a mix of educational and entertaining experiences on a variety of topics.
Virtual reality learning: how it works
Research shows that VR can be an engaging medium for youth to explore virtual scenarios and make meaning through virtual experiences. Research from a variety of fields has demonstrated the value of virtual simulations for learning information and skills as a result of immersion.
In our research on VR in the classroom, teachers devised new assessment strategies to capture the deep, constructivist, learning they saw occurring in their students as a result of VR. Students reported that as well as being engaging, VR helped them retain the information. Here are a few ways that VR can promote student learning and engagement:
- Students find that VR helps them understand places better than they can understand people.
- Creating VR content challenges students to think about their users and potentially practice empathy skills.
- VR allows students to connect with content on a deeper level emotionally and conceptually.
- When developing VR content, students can gain both soft and hard skills.
- VR potentially reduces the cognitive load, which permits students to focus on higher level or more nuanced concepts.
- Students’ responses revealed that visual and interactive elements of VR helped them understand the information they were learning.
“I think virtual reality will truly change the face of education,” said Kriti. “Once VR applications begin to line up with state and national education standards, they can be embedded into classroom lesson plans and will revolutionize virtual reality education.”
To find more local VR learning activities for families and educators, explore foundry 10’s The VR Learning Map.
More in Seattle’s Child:
Also from foundry10: Culturally relevant and multilingual books, picked by students and teachers