As a new frontier for student engagement, virtual reality is beginning to find its way into classrooms as teachers adopt it for immersive lesson experiences. However, virtual reality could also prove a valuable tool for getting students to create their own presentations and lessons for themselves and their peers. The efforts to make VR go beyond passive viewing for students opens up a whole array of pedagogical possibilities that can be created by students, for students.
Previously, the process for creating 360-degree video was a rather technical one, most likely out of the grasp of students. That has changed as VR has become more commercial. With relatively inexpensive cameras like the Richo Theta or the Samsung Gear 360 that come with easy-to-use editing software on the market, taking spherical images or 360-degree movies is now easier than ever. As an example of student led VR productions, in the spring of 2017, students from 25 high schools across the country took on Digital Promises’s challenge to use 360° video to make an impactful educational experience. Their videos tackled meaningful subject matter, including depicting gentrification in the bay area of Belmont California, highlighting the problem of human trafficking in Kettering, Ohio, and a community and nature tour from students in Atherton California. The potential VR has for situating students within settings and enabling them to learn from them is enormous. From historical settings to contemporary and local locations, the ability to tell a story visually with VR is steadily becoming a reality for students in the classroom. With software like ClassVR available as an open platform to develop Virtual and Augmented Reality curriculum, student created VR content is now easier to upload and share to others.
Student led VR content will be essential in overcoming what remains a difficult barrier for VR more generally, cost. With the threat of budget cuts looming, implementation of VR may be difficult for schools particularly in areas of limited funding. By having students fill the void of VR content themselves and showing the feasibility of the technology, schools may prioritize its implementation into their educational curriculum.