Learning through virtual reality (VR)

IT teacher-turned-internet safety writer Yusuf Tamanna looks at how immersive virtual reality technology is being used to help children learn – and play

Have you ever wanted to take yourself to another world? Well, technology is letting that happen, courtesy of virtual reality headsets and apps.

Also known as VR, this immersive technology ‘transports’ you anywhere, from the ocean to outer space.

The most common way to access VR is through goggle-type headsets, which vary from simple cardboard devices for around £10, to fancy hi-tech gear, which comes with a healthy price tag. While wearing your headset, any movements you make are mirrored in the virtual environment you’re exploring.

VR has become increasingly popular with schools as the technology has become cheaper, and organisations are now creating educational content specially designed to be experienced using VR.

Platforms such as Google Expeditions enable pupils to take virtual trips around the world, into space, and even back in time. Nearpod gives students with special educational needs and those with mobility issues the chance to visit the wonders of the world without leaving their classroom.

The use of drones to film in previously inaccessible areas, such as the no-go zone around the former nuclear reactor in Chernobyl, Ukraine, means we can explore the planet like never before.

At home, games consoles such as PlayStation4 and Oculus Rift offer VR titles, while you can also download apps to play on your phone or tablet. It’s a technology that takes players on adventures that parents could only have dreamt of when they were young.

Finding your way in virtual reality

1. Many headsets specify that they are for ages 12 or over. Google’s Cardboard viewers are for 7+, but they advise that children should be supervised while using them.

2. Motion sickness has been reported when using virtual reality headsets, with some people complaining of nausea and headaches. Setting time limits for use and taking regular screen breaks is advisable.

3. Using a VR headset while standing or walking? Don’t – it can make you disorientated and liable to bump into things in the real world.

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