virtual reality

5 AR & VR tools for social skills

As interest in augmented and virtual reality grows, so, too, do the technologies' potential to help students with special needs.

Virtual and augmented reality, once far-off on the classroom horizon, have moved with relative speed into the realm of possible classroom technologies.

In fact, recent data indicates that while few teachers are using augmented and virtual reality, it does show some promise. Speak Up Survey data shows that 5 percent of teachers say they are using virtual or augmented reality in their classroom. Higher percentages of high school computer science and technology teachers (11 percent) and science teachers (9 percent) are using augmented or virtual reality.

Twenty-five percent of district administrators in small districts would like to see augmented reality apps in their schools, and 43 percent want virtual reality experiences and hardware in their schools.

Twenty percent of district administrators said augmented and virtual reality professional development is a priority this year.

Beyond the technologies’ cool factor, however, lie a handful of promising uses, including uses in social and emotional learning and with students who have special needs.

Teachers report that life and academic success and college preparation are heightened by solid social competencies, but teachers also say they feel their ability to teach these competencies is limited, said Dr. Amber Rowland and Dr. Sean Smith, both of the University of Kansas, during an ISTE 2017 presentation.

(Next page: 5 augmented and virtual reality resources)

For students who have content knowledge but need a little extra social and emotional knowledge, virtual and augmented reality could be especially helpful.

“There is lots that, if we understand what needs to be taught in terms of social competency, could be woven into virtual reality and augmented reality development,” Smith said.

We’ve gathered a list of augmented and virtual reality tools that focus on social skills and social-emotional learning:

1. Kinful 
Kinful is a social-emotional learning (SEL) curriculum harnessing virtual reality to bring intercultural exchanges directly into the classroom. These virtual exchanges serve as a powerful experiential learning experience in unlocking SEL competencies. The curriculum and corresponding virtual reality videos, complete with student assessments, are delivered through a digital platform.

2. InMind 2 VR
This VR experience exposes students to the chemistry behind human emotion. InMind VR 2 is set inside the brain of John, a teenage boy, and is inspired by Lovheim’s theory of emotions and Disney Pixar’s Inside Out. To control John’s emotions, the user has to catch the right neurons by shaking his head. The molecules will control John’s reactions to the situations around him, which will shape his future as an adult.

3. Public Speaking VR
This virtual reality experience offers a realistic training platform for job interviews and public speaking events, which helps students practice and become more comfortable with such situations. Students can use a virtual reality headset to hone their skills and identify ways to address their anxieties around public speaking.

4. Augmented CaRer
Augmented CaRer focuses on helping children with autism, along with their parents, teachers and caregivers, gain access to clearer and more consistent means of non-verbal communication.

5. The Autism Glass Project
Developed by a team at Stanford University, this system uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to automate facial expression recognition that runs on wearable glasses and delivers real-time social cues. The system uses the outward-facing camera on the glasses to read facial expressions and provides social cues within the child’s natural environment. It also records the amount and type of eye contact, which adds an additional layer for behavioral intervention.

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Laura Ascione

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