The VR School Study has featured in an interview published by the Independent Schools Association of NSW (AISNSW). The interview covers areas such as leveraging the learning affordances of VR to develop deeper understanding, problem-solving and creativity with students. You can read the interview here.
An essential part of scaffolding digital learning when using emerging technology in schools is the provision of developmentally appropriate training on using platforms to meet learning objectives. While there is a lot of talk about generations Y and Z being digital natives, there is great variability in the capability of children and young people in using digital tools for learning, especially when it is comes to creating rather than consuming products.
Throughout the Athelstone School project we have thought carefully about training and supporting primary school aged students (11 – 12years) in using the 360° VRTY platform or content creation. In 2019 we did a pilot study using VRTY with Year 5 students which helped us hone the training approach. In this phase of the study student training was conducted via teleconference and lasted 40 minutes. VRTY personnel delivered the training, while the teachers and researcher were on hand to assist. This initial training involved a general introduction to using the platform to create virtual worlds in screen mode. We used a ‘sticky note’ exercise to evaluate the training where students writing down their comments on a post-it note about the training so that we could gauge the class’s training experience. This exercise revealed most students enjoyed the training but that some found it challenging as the examples below show.
In 2020, we expanded the training and support approach to include an additional teleconference session on how to save and share virtual content with others in screen and immersive modes. VRTY designed a special handbook for students on this step-by-step process. This handbook was printed out and put on each desk for easy referral. This supplemented to in-platform tutorials and information, providing an option for students who might prefer more conventional reference material to support learning. This in-class training was undertaken via conference which we already had practice with before the necessity of conducting such sessions due to COVID restrictions.
One of the learning objectives for the unit of work was that students could use the on-desk training handbook effectively for assistance to trouble-shoot issues as they arose. The evaluation indicated that all students met this learning objective.
Our experience shows that primary school students may need different training and resource approaches to build confidence and scaffolding them towards competence in using 360° content creation tools. The training response included provision of in-platform instructions and tutorials with a back-up paper-based manual available on student desks. Once confidence was developed, students played and learnt through this process too. Multi-pronged training approaches coupled with practice and play makes perfect.
This post bought to you by A/Prof Erica Southgate, the VRTY team Kingston Lee-Young and Sarah Lee and the teachers of Athelstone School.
Developing units of work that allow for student VR content creation involves: (a) sequencing and scaffolding learning for curriculum-mandated content and skill acquisition; and, (b) allowing time for students to develop new technology expertise via problem-solving, creative experimentation and collaboration.
In the Athelstone School VR project, primary (elementary) school students use the 360° VRTY platform to create a travel journey that demonstrates Italian language acquisition and knowledge of Italian culture. The learning objectives derive directly from the Australian Curriculum.
Below is the unit of work ‘Persi in Citta’ (Lost in the City), developed for the VR project by Athelstone language teacher Angelica Cardone and Jo Romeo. The unit of work was implemented this term with primary school students in Year 6 (11-12 years of age).
‘Persi in Citta’ (Lost in the City) unit of work
Learning Intention – to use and develop directional language in the VR platform whilst creating different scenes in Italian cities.
- Introduce the booklets and go through it as a class (VRTY student handbook)
- Re – familiarize themselves with the platform and look at where students were in Term 1 in terms of importing 360 degree images, information markers, portal markers and importing pictures etc.
- Allow time to work on their world.
- Students to work on their information markers, limit to at least 4 per picture or scene.
- Information marker must have information about the landmark they have chosen to use, information must be in English and have the Italian translation.
- After information markers have been used and checked by the teacher students to use portal markers so they can move through scenes.
- Once portal markers have been used to move in and out of scenes directions will need to be written in to allow others to use the world as a new traveller to Italy. E.g. – Excuse me where is the Colosseum? Scusa dov’e` il Colosseo?
- Use directional language learnt in lessons and put them in their scenes.
- Portal markers will need to transport the visitors to the location.
- Proposal to use the headsets and phones to view the worlds they have created in the VRTY platform. Proposal to use the 360 camera for producing own images to import into the VRTY platform.
- Informing – Gather information from a range of sources (ACLITC043) and represent information appropriately for different audiences using a variety of modes (ACLITC044).
- Creating – Create imaginative texts for different audiences such as digital stories using characters, places, ideas and events (ACLITC046)
- Translating – Create simple bi lingual texts and discuss what translates easily or not (ACLITC048)
- Systems of Language – Use grammatical knowledge to interpret and create meaning in Italian (ACLITU052)
- Language variation and change – Recognise that language use varies according to the context of situation and culture (ACLITU054)
|Can student import a 360 degree image correctly.|
|Can student import an information marker and use effectively.|
|Student can import a portal marker and use effectively.|
|Student can use directional language appropriately to navigate through the scene.|
|Was able to work collaboratively in pairs or small groups.|
|Used the student handbook effectively for assistance if required.|
In addition to the Languages Curriculum outcomes the unit of work develops the following Level 4 General Capabilities from the Australian Curriculum:
Investigating with ICT
- Locate generate and access data and information: locate, retrieve or generate information using search engines and simple search functions and classify information in meaningful ways
Creating with ICT
- Generate ideas plans and processes: use ICT effectively to record ideas, represent thinking and plan solutions
- Generate solutions to challenges and learning area tasks: independently or collaboratively create and modify digital solutions, creative outputs or data representation/transformation for articular audiences and purposes
Communicating with ICT
- Collaborate share and exchange: select and use appropriate ICT tools safely to share and exchange information and to safely collaborate with others
CRITICAL AND CREATIVE THINKING CAPABILITY
Inquiring – identifying, exploring and organising information and ideas
- Identify and clarify information and ideas: identify and clarify relevant information and prioritise ideas
- Organise and process information: analyse, condense and combine relevant information from multiple sources
Generating ideas, possibilities and actions
- Imagine possibilities and connect ideas: combine ideas in a variety of ways and from a range of sources to create new possibilities
PERSONAL AND SOCIAL CAPABILITY
- Work independently and show initiative: assess the value of working independently, and taking initiative to do so where appropriate
- Become confident resilient and adaptable: devise strategies and formulate plans to assist in the completion of challenging tasks and the maintenance of personal safety
- Communicate effectively: identify and explain factors that influence effective communication in a variety of situations
- Work collaboratively: contribute to groups and teams, suggesting improvements in methods used for group investigations and projects
- Make decisions: identify factors that influence decision making and consider the usefulness of these in making their own decisions
The VR School Study has always been concerned with safe and ethical use of immersive technologies especially with children and young people, and in schools. We were the first to create safety resources and procedures for teachers and students and, in the age of the Covid-19 pandemic, we continue to make safety and hygiene the top priority.
Hence, we have developed a safety protocol and set of related resources to address hygiene and safety for VR headsets that use mobile phones – this is the type of equipment we are using for the 360° VR content creation that is the basis of the Athelstone Italian language learning study. The resources were developed for training primary (elementary) school aged children in Year 6 (11-12 years old).
Context always matters when assessing and addressing risk including VR use in classrooms, especially during a pandemic. When undertaking risk assessment and development of protocols and resources to mitigate risk for VR (or any equipment digital or otherwise), each school must address their local conditions, follow expert advice on hygiene and safety, and develop their own risk assessment, protocols and resources.
For the Covid-19 state-of-play in South Australia (SA), where Athelstone School is located, see the SA government updates here – https://www.covid-19.sa.gov.au/home/dashboard and the SA Department of Education website on Covid-19 here – https://www.education.sa.gov.au/supporting-students/health-e-safety-and-wellbeing/covid-19-coronavirus. Our protocol and resources were developed in August 2020 when the Covid-19 situation was reflected in the snapshot from the government website below:
Here is a summary of the risks identified and the proposed mitigation strategies developed in relation to context:
|Potential risk||Mitigation strategy|
|Covid-19 transmission through student sharing of VR headsets and phones||– Assign each student their own headset, box for headset storage and phone|
– Label headsets, storage box and phone with the name of the student to allow students and teachers to monitor the use of personally assigned equipment.
– Teachers train students in not sharing headsets, storage box or phones and to always return headset to its assigned box.
– Reinforce safety and hygiene messages and procedure in class at the beginning of the lesson and with a poster displayed at the front of the classroom and with a laminated version on each desk.
– Teachers in-class monitoring that students use their assign headset and pack headset into assigned box.
– For the duration of the research no other students or classes use equipment.
|Lack of compliance with Education Department Covid-19 advice for schools||– Principal does daily online checks of Department’s Covid-19 advice for schools to ensure compliance and that the project’s risk mitigation strategies do not contravene advice.|
|Poor VR headset and phone hygiene||– At the beginning and end of each lesson students wash/sanitise their hands. |
– At the end of each lesson students use disposable sanitiser wipes to clean their assigned headset (except for lenses) and phone at the end of each lesson and return VR headset to its assigned box.
|Teacher handling of phone after it’s been sanitised may put them at risk||– Teachers use disposable gloves to collect phones from students and connect these to charging station.|
|Desk contamination with from VR headset||– At the end of the lesson and after wiping their headsets and phones, students use sanitiser wipes to clean their desk and the laminated safety poster which is on their desk.|
|Improper disposal of used sanitiser wipes and gloves||– At the end of each lesson students dispose of used disinfectant/alcohol cloths in plastic bag that has no tears or holes in it and this is tied shut by teachers who dispose of it directly into school skip bin. |
– Teachers dispose of used gloves in plastic bag that has no tears or holes in it and this is tied shut by teachers who dispose of it directly in to school skip bin.
|Students experience cybersickness||– Students trained to recognise signs of cybersickness or discomfort and to immediately take headset off and tell teacher. |
– The training message is reinforced on safety poster displayed in classroom with a laminated version on each desk.
– Students buddy-up to check on each other during use of headset.
– Limit of 15 minutes per lesson in headset monitored by teacher and student-buddy.
|Students move out of seat with VR headset on and injury themselves or others||– Students receive training on staying seated while they have the headset on. |
– The training message is reinforced on safety poster displayed in classroom with a laminated version on each desk.
– Students buddy up to make sure each remains seated and teachers monitor this in class.
Here are the teacher-delivered safety and hygiene training script for students:
Here is the teacher safety and hygiene classroom procedure:
The ‘Be VR Safe’ poster for display in classrooms and on student’s desks is a child-friendly version of the safety and hygiene procedure outlined in the training script.
All these resources can be downloaded from the resources section of this website.
On a related note – Since the beginning of the pandemic, the VR research and industry sectors have been working overtime to define and address safe use of high-end VR (where the computing is in the headset) and although there is no definitive advice this article covers some of the issues – https://interactions.acm.org/blog/view/evaluating-immersive-experiences-during-covid-19-and-beyond
Until next time, stay safe.
A/Prof Erica Southgate
Cover photo by cottonbro from Pexels
In our previous post we introduced a project at Dungog High School where they are using the 3D drawing program Tilt Brush in drama class. In this post, Head Teacher Louise Rowley responds to 4 key questions on her learning journey and how to use VR in drama in a curriculum-aligned way.
What is the VR project about?
The Year 11 students were creating a Director’s Folio for a contemporary Australian play called Ruby Moon. They traditionally have to create a director’s vision and explore this in their set box and costume designs. [Syllabus outcome P1.4: understands, manages and manipulates theatrical elements and elements of production, using them perceptively and creatively.] For this project, we included the VR and the program Tilt Brush for them to explore and create an audience experience of their Director’s vision. This really led to more engagement with the atmosphere and audience experience. [Drama Stage 6 Syllabus outcome P2.1: understands the dynamics of actor-audience relationship.]
They were working in groups to create their designs and needed to understand, manage and manipulate theatrical elements and elements of production. They were charged with the task of using them perceptively and creatively and this was taken to a new level of creativity in the VR space. We had been inspired by the National Theatre in the UK who created an immersive experience for their audience based on their director’s vision. This takes the audience to a completely new place and extended the idea of theatre as an immersive art form. [Syllabus outcome P1.4: understands, manages and manipulates theatrical elements and elements of production, using them perceptively and creatively.] The process of taking their Director’s vision into the VR space allowed them to think more about the audience’s experience and really immerse themselves in the director’s role. It allowed them to demonstrate their directorial vision in the immersive virtual world as well as in the physical world. [Syllabus outcomes P2.2: understands the contributions to a production of the playwright, director, dramaturg, designers, front-of-house staff, technical staff and producers; P2.3: demonstrates directorial and acting skills to communicate meaning through dramatic action.]
The project also aligns with key competencies in Drama with students collecting, analysing, organising information, and communicating ideas and information in new and creative ways their Director’s folio and in the VR space. Students were also planning and organising activities and working with others and in teams. The level of collaboration, which developed throughout the project, was a key achievement. Students were discussing ideas like Directors and helping each other to master the new software. They had no experience with the technology before they started and were able to unleash their creativity and I saw students who were less confident really growing in their confidence and ability to take a role in the group.
Using the VR deeply engaged the students in their learning. The project involved enquiry, research, analysis, experimentation and reflection contributing to the development of the key competency solving problems. Students had the opportunity to develop the key competency using technology in the study of new approaches to Drama and Theatre and dramatic forms. VR is a completely new technology and we are already exploring more ideas on how to link more programs together within the Tilt Brush software.
Why use this technology?
In the design process there is a lot of experimentation and collaboration required. Tilt brush has endless features that allow this to occur. Sketches could be saved, videoed, gifs made and photographed, and this process of documenting their ideas helped the students reflect on their ideas more. The quality of their ideas developed further. The Tilt Brush program was an endless space, which incorporated many amazing creative features. Designs could be instantly erased and then re-created quickly. It was not messy and did not waste materials. It had many resources that we do not usually have in the Drama room. Endless colours and brushes, backgrounds, models to be imported and guides to draw around. Sketches could be made smaller or bigger in an instant. It allowed all students to be equal. Once in the technology they were able to each contribute in a very really and tangible way to the group idea. It also allowed our rural students to have access to quality programs, which can sometimes not be available to them because of location.
What is the biggest learning curve?
We had to learn how to use the technology and how to program the classwork to make sure other tasks were being completed at the same time. This was fairly painless and the students were great. As the teacher, I had to take a risk with new technology and not be frightened of not knowing absolutely everything about the software. After a while, the students were teaching each other and me.
What advice would you give to teachers?
Just do it! It isn’t scary and you don’t have to know everything. I have given advice to others in my school about trying new technology. There is so much to learn is can be quite overwhelming but is can be a lot of fun. I am now helping other teachers try a few new technologies. So the effect has been good.
Feature Image: Head Teacher Louise Rowley experimenting in Tilt Brush
Picture in text: Students discussing virtual set design features.