Video transcript – Virtual reality in the classroom

Felicity Wicks:
Hi, I'm Felicity Wicks. I'm an English History teacher at Cecil Hills High. Cecil Hills is a large, co-educational high school located in Sydney's west. I've been teaching at Cecil Hills for over 15 years, and over the years I've seen many changes, particularly in technology.

Our students enter into a world that is largely technology based. And we should include it in our programs. We are a 'bring your own device' school, and I noticed that by using their devices I could capture their engagement, and often more importantly, model appropriate device use.

So, were you excited when you got to use it?

Student group:
Extremely. Oh, yeah. Very.

Felicity Wicks:
Very. I set myself a challenge. I was going to introduce virtual reality into our English programs both through immersive text and virtual excursions. I saw a new world of texts and experiences was opening up using Google Cardboard and mobile phones. One of my classes was 8W which were a very energetic bunch. They loved to work in groups, and they were really good at it.

Our first novel off is a novel study looking at the multiple voices. The novel I'd chosen was Hitler's Daughter by Jackie French. So, as we got closer to the end of the book, I started to promise to take them on a virtual excursion. That we would go to Berlin and I would show them the settings that we'd been reading about.

The day came, I sent home a note asking them to bring a phone to school, also asking them to have Google Maps downloaded on the phone. So, the day came , I handed them the Google Glasses like this. A YouTube clip on how to put it together, and we spent probably the first 40 to 50 minutes just making up the goggles which eventually were to look like this.

Student 1:
It's actually really easy to make, and all you need is a bit of ingenuity to solve these problems. You can, say, use a rubber band around the actual piece to hold itself together. And say if something doesn't fit, just get a piece of like, paper, fold it up a bit, and it's easy to use.

Felicity Wicks:
After that, I split them into groups of three's. They went outside, and they toured Berlin. They went to the places that were mentioned in the book. They found other places in Germany that matched with the book. You can see they actually were really having a great time in what they were doing, but they were also learning.

For both classes I tied our use of the Google Cardboard into an assessment that was approaching. 9S, they actually had a choice when they got to their assessment as to whether they used the two texts we'd done. They had to choose two texts and place it within their critical response. And most of them chose to use at least one of the virtual texts within their written response.

Student 1:
Honestly, I noticed myself improve my marks actually quite a bit, because I felt like I was more engaged into the subject itself, and I knew more about the topic instead of reading it from a book, or watching a documentary about it.

Felicity Wicks:
So my other class that used virtual reality was 9S. We were studying refugees, so I decided to implement using two new texts with them using the virtual reality and the Google Cardboard.

One is The Displaced which follows the story of three children and takes you back to their homeland and the reasons why they left. Each student would have a different experience with that text, depending on where they're looking.

Student 2:
It created a more empathetic feeling for us so that we would feel like they were feeling. It gave us the feel of how those refugees would have felt, like what they experienced.

Student 3:
We got to see it through their eyes. We saw their perspective.

Student 4:
We saw like where they were living as well.

Student 1:
It was like a really immersive experience where we could see the world through their shoes.

Student 5:
We could look around.

Felicity Wicks:
I think it has really helped the kids. In last year's experiment with my two classes it engaged both of them back to the topics that we were studying, but it also showed what I think is really important, the use of technology in our world. It opened up their eyes to what's out there.

Student 2:
Well some people are visual learners. So like, if you can't read properly, or like, you know, a video, or like, images would help you better.

Felicity Wicks:
The world's your oyster basically with VR and AR. It's an emerging technology and one that is really worth while exploring.

End of transcript

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