Virtual Reality, Real Learning

A Classroom Teacher's Journal

JP Case Middle School - Flemington, NJ

Questions or comments to SCorson@frsd.k12.nj.us

INTRODUCTION:

Our school is one step ahead of the masses, implementing one of the most advanced consumer VR headsets currently available in a 7th/8th grade media design lab, and asking students to become creators of content! Whether or not VR technologies become mainstream in the classroom, one thing is for sure: these students are getting a glimpse at the future and an early opportunity to be creators in an interesting new medium.

Want to know what the students are saying? Check out the STUDENT VOICE blogs.


AN HTC VIVE In MY Classroom - Mr. Corson's TEACHER JOURNAL:

"We are GO for VR navigation!" - 11/15/16

$10 was well worth the price for a Unity plug-in called 'VR Arc Teleporter.' We now have the ability to offer navigation to the user when viewing a student VR project! This is especially essential in large-scale collaborative projects that students create in which projects span a large area.



"We designed then viewed OVER 75 ORIGINAL ROOM-SCALE VR PROJECTS today!" - 11/9/16

How do we create and subsequently view individual student projects in VR, within one class period and on a single HTC Vive? With efficiency! Also, by creating a VR VIEWING TEMPLATE that references an ever-changing .skp file on a shared network drive!

The students overwrite this specific .skp files on a network shared drive, which is already referenced by Unity in a VR-ready scene. By refreshing changes to the asset in Unity it essentially loads the next student project for virtual reality viewing! Thus we have our VR VIEWING TEMPLATE for efficiency in queuing students through a VR viewing station.

There are a few glitches! Sometimes, the project retains the JPGs included from the last student, and I use windows explorer to delete all of the textures for the entire project so it can reload correctly.

OUR Students ARE undertakING innovative design tasks within THE FIELD OF VR-learning!


"STUDENTS WILL CREATE COLLABORATIVE ROOM-SCALE ENVIRONMENTS... BEFORE WINTER BREAK" - 10/19/16

There are a few hurdles I need to overcome first. One of the challenges will be to allow users to navigate around the 3D space beyond the bounds of the physical play area, much like commercial titles such as The Lab (and countless others) allow for with the thumb pad on the top of the controller to "teleport".

I haven't tried implementing it yet, but this link https://github.com/Flafla2/Vive-Teleporter/releases/tag/v2.0.0 seems very promising in terms of a Unity Asset Package that offers this capability!

Update: it seems Unity actually offers a few interesting assets in their store that address this issue. I came across them when implementing Valve's official Steam VR asset. What I really need now is: more time in my day to work on this! Also, maybe some help from any experts! Email scorson@frsd.k12.nj.us if you have any input on strategies VR design by students.


"WELCOME BACK... TO THE CLASSROOM YOU ARE STANDING IN" - 10/11/16

Middle school students had their first in-class experience today using the HTC VIVE, and I learned a few things as we went along. I used a 3-person team approach. One person in the VR, one safety person, and one time keeper. I also used safety cones to mark off the area so observers did not interfere.

One thing that was a bit tricky was having students take the controllers once they were already wearing the headset. This was easier with my colleagues because we had ignored the safety straps, but with the students that isn't an option. What seemed to work well was:

1) Having the student put on the headset with no app loaded. This gives them the ability to clearly see the position of the controllers as they take them.

2) Having the students put their hands into fists so the teacher (or another student) could easily place the straps over their wrists while handing them a controllers.

The first app we used was REC ROOM, but with no sound playing and the microphone disabled. Students were immersed visually, but vocally connected to the real classroom around them. One important thing to note was that despite introducing the grid-boundary to each student, some of them still overstepped it! Hence the reason for the role of a student as safety person, watching for that behavior as well as any cord-related hazards!


"WASTING NO TIME" - 9/29/16

It turns out student-created 3D Sketchup models are remarkably easy to experience in VR! I had a repository of 3D projects to work with from last year's students for testing purposes, already in the form of Unity Packages containing Sketchup models designed to be immersive.

It was almost drag-and-drop. After downloading the Vive asset package for Unity, inserting a VR camera rig, and dragging in a student project: I was able to view a student creation as if I were standing in front of it (and of course, walking around it, as far as my physical play-space allows). One of my next goals is to give the user the ability to relocate to other parts of the arena using the Vive controllers, like I've experienced in the professional apps.


"WAIT... CAN THEY HEAR US RIGHT NOW?" - 9/26/16

A math teacher and a social studies teacher walk in during lunch break to see what I've been so excited about.

I'd been having trouble getting sound to work on our new Alienware (don't ask!) and so as we explored our first downloaded VR app, REC ROOM, it was in relative silence. That is, aside from the manic laughter that the social studies teacher was producing as he interacted with his environment and other internet-based users in the arena.

As my colleagues explored, I managed to fix the sound, and we were surprised to suddenly hear the voices of the other users coming through. Had others been listening to us this entire time? I hadn't connected a microphone to our new PC yet, and so my initial reaction was no: they could not hear us. As it turns out, the headset itself has a built-in microphone, and so yes indeed the three of us had been unknowingly broadcasting our conversation to strangers! Privacy and safety concerns are paramount when students use any technology, hence the importance of my thorough exploration of this technology before granting any students access to it!


"UNBOXING A VERY LARGE BOX" - 9/23/16

Students were excited when the secretary wheeled in a large cardboard box containing our HTC Vive on a cart in the middle of class. My repetitive visits to the Main Office anxiously asking "Is it here yet?" surely prompted such an unusual mid-class delivery when the package arrived at the school! The students were of course disappointed that we couldn't immediately open and use this advanced new piece of hardware. I asked my students for their understanding and for two weeks to set it up, explore it, and ultimately figure out how to turn-key it to the 150 students currently enrolled in my computer science classes.


When does student 3D design turn into *student VR* Design? The instant you get a high-end vr headset for your student design lab classroom.