Virtual reality field trips give students advanced adventure In this Feb. 7, 2018 photo, Lily Adler, left, advisor and teacher at the Berkeley Carroll School in the Brooklyn borough of New York, adjusts her virtuality reality headset. From center left are students, Daniel Cornicello, 17, Charlie Hertz, 17, and Taylor Engler, 16. (AP Photo/Deepti Hajela)
Virtual reality field trips give students advanced adventure
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On a February afternoon in a Brooklyn classroom, 16-year-old Taylor Engler came face to face with a cow. But it was all in her head.

She was transported by a virtual reality headset. It took the Berkeley Carroll School junior and eight classmates to an upstate New York farm 250 miles away. For students, the technology means field trips are no longer limited by the length of a bus ride.

"I was not expecting it to be right in my face!" That's what Taylor said after peeling off the purple headset and finding herself back in the confines of her city classroom.

On any given day, students nationwide are taking virtual reality "trips." They are deep-sea diving, observing medical operations, even swimming through the human circulatory system. They are using gadgets that are becoming increasingly accessible in both cost and content.

At the least, teachers say, it's another way to engage the iPhone generation of students. At best, it can enhance their understanding and improve their grades.

"It instantly grabs the students,” said Colin Jones. He teaches science in the Plainview-Old Bethpage Central School District. He has used a system called zSpace to dissect cells and walked goggled students through the boreal forest with a Google app called Expeditions.

"It's something that can be done in a period or two," he said. "But it could take even a week sometimes when you're doing a lab."

In Brooklyn, Engler and classmates virtually walked through barns and fields in Watkins Glen. They stretched their arms toward videotaped pigs and cows only they saw. According to adviser Lily Adler, it was an "outing" that otherwise would not have happened, given the constraints of time and staffing. 

"It's different than watching video because you can have more than one perspective. You can actually move," Taylor said during the lesson by animal rights group Farm Sanctuary.

Not only move, but also feel, said Richard Lamb, who studies how the brain processes information at the University at Buffalo Neurocognition Science Lab. In the lab, the physical effects of virtual reality become clear as subjects standing on solid ground teeter on stories-high virtual scaffolding or experience motion sickness without moving.

"Some of the research we're doing has actually shown that what you experience in virtual reality has very similar, if not the same, physiological responses that you would get if you were doing the actual activity," Lamb said. "Heart rate, cognition, breathing, everything."

The effect on learning, he said, is to improve interest, understanding and recall.

It's unknown how many classrooms have or will adopt the technology, but experts say it's still relatively rare. While individual headsets that require a user's phone can cost as little as $20 or $30, systems and software for classes run into the thousands of dollars. Early complaints about a lack of good software are fading as more companies enter the market, but the rules for use haven't necessarily caught up to the technology.

In New York, for example, simulated lab experiments don't count toward the state's hands-on lab time requirements.

Even so, experts say, the sciences are an area where virtual reality, especially enhanced to let users manipulate their surroundings, holds particular promise for classrooms.

"The biggest hindrance, I think, is going to be the quality of that experience, how closely it mimics the physical world," said David Evans, executive director of the National Science Teachers Association.

But, he said, "the ability to do dangerous things, the ability to run many, many more cases in a simulation space as opposed to the real physical space represents a huge learning opportunity."

Lamb, who taught chemistry, agreed.

"Too often in schools, when we do things with laboratories, it’s…you mix this together, you mix that together and you get this outcome. And if you don't get that outcome, you did something wrong, but we don't have enough resources for you to redo it," he said. In virtual reality, "all I do is hit reset on the computer. I don't have to actually use chemicals."

Both Lamb and Evans stressed using the technology to enrich — not replace — real-world experiences, where any number of subtle factors can affect an outcome.

"We have to remain anchored in the actual world," Evans cautioned, "because that's the one that we really need to explain."

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
What are three advantages of virtual-reality field trips?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (57)
  • CadenceG-del
    2/27/2018 - 03:41 p.m.

    On any given day, students nationwide are taking virtual reality "trips." They are deep-sea diving, observing medical operations, even swimming through the human circulatory system. They are using gadgets that are becoming increasingly accessible in both cost and content.

  • SophiaD-del1
    2/27/2018 - 05:13 p.m.

    Three advantages of virtual reality are the students in the iPhone age get more interested in the lessons, the equipment is affordable, and you do not need materials in a virtual lesson(Ex: if a student makes a mistake in chemistry they can always hit the reset button). Using virtual reality students can get a better learning experience at their fingertips so they can put on the headset and be transported to their destination. If this new trend continues each classroom can have an affordable, safe, and fun alternative to the classic field trip setting.

  • GabriellaJ-del
    2/27/2018 - 05:18 p.m.

    this article is about how virtual reality field trips have more advantages then regular field trips and why they are beneficial.

  • PoojaT-del
    2/27/2018 - 05:31 p.m.

    This article is about a virtual reality field trip that gives students advanced adventure. There are many advantages of virtual- reality field trips. Some are that it is another way to engage the iPhone generation of students, it can enhance students's understanding, and it can improve their grades. This was a very interesting article to read.

  • AnnabelleA-del
    2/27/2018 - 05:48 p.m.

    This article is about virtual reality. The article is great because it has many examples of how vr is used in a classroom. Such as: field trips, labs, and chemistry experiments

    The three advantages of vr field trips are:
    - no travel
    - no added expenses
    - different perspectives while still being in the classroom

  • TiffanyW-del
    2/27/2018 - 05:55 p.m.

    On a February afternoon in a Brooklyn classroom, 16-year-old Taylor Engler came face to face with a cow. But it was all in her head. She was transported by a virtual reality headset. It took the Berkeley Carroll School junior and eight classmates to an upstate New York farm 250 miles away. For students, the technology means field trips are no longer limited by the length of a bus ride.

  • EvanC-del
    2/27/2018 - 06:49 p.m.

    It shows kids who might not have the money to go on trips to explore this trip in a whole new way. This can probably help those who don't enjoy seeing it in person and those who are in to electronics. This helps those have different needs and likes. I liked this topic a lot because this can help others.

  • GregoryM-del
    2/27/2018 - 06:51 p.m.

    Virtual reality field trips give students advanced adventure. On a February afternoon in a Brooklyn classroom, 16-year-old Taylor Engler came face to face with a cow. But it was all in her head.

  • JustinM-del
    2/27/2018 - 07:24 p.m.

    This article is about virtual reality field trips and how students advanced adventures. It took the Berkeley Carroll School junior and eight classmates to an upstate New York farm 250 miles away. For students, the technology means field trips are no longer limited by the length of a bus ride.

  • WilliamF-del
    2/27/2018 - 07:29 p.m.

    Wow. I think it's really cool that you can take field trips in virtual reality. Now virtual reality can be used for study purposes. Even if you do something wrong during a chemistry lab, you can sometimes not be able to do it again because there's no more, but with virtual reality all you have to do is click a reset button and there it is again!

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