I thought I was ahead of the times when I acquired virtual reality headsets and other
mixed reality technology via a grant award in late 2019. The pandemic shutdowns halted my plans to use the acquired virtual reality headsets for virtual field trips and other STEM investigations. Returning to in-person learning just six months later, the prospect of utilizing this tech for meaningful integration seemed more daunting and less appealing.
Feedback from my students revealed that they had already consumed hours of 360° views while gaming on their home computers and were well versed in digital travel because teachers frequently used video tours as engagement tools during the pandemic.
To overcome my discouragement, I recalled that in 2020, Natale et al. published a review of recent research related to learning with virtual reality and concluded that VR is not as impactful on learning when done with non-immersive tools such as the Chromebooks students were issued when they were forced into distance learning.
Holding fast to the prospect that the virtual reality headsets would be the key to pushing past the passive consumption of video and games by providing impactful immersive learning, I patiently awaited the opportunity to integrate this tool.
Shockingly, at the mention of being able to use virtual reality headsets this year, my students responded with something to the effect of “Yeah…like an Oculus? Eh…I’ve already played a lot with that because I have one at home.” Once a novel technology, the current mindset seemed to be that VR was just another toy used to consume games and other media. I was not looking to use VR to gamify my classroom. I wanted my students to be able to use virtual reality as a medium for developing the higher-order thinking skills that McQuiggan et al. (2015) described as critical for
thriving in today’s digitally connected society.
To push them past the consumption mindset, I developed an immersive design adventure that awakened and inspired the 4Cs of learning: creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, and communication.
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