Students at Matthew Flinders Anglican College on the Sunshine Coast are among the first in Australia to be using the latest Virtual Reality (VR) technology, giving them the opportunity to experience kayaking around icebergs and searching for lost penguin colonies in Antarctica, all from the classroom.
Flinders purchased three of the newly-released Oculus Quest VR devices, which were launched globally in May 2019, to enable students to use virtual worlds to create, visualise and learn about history, science, geography, design, art and culture in an unprecedented way.
The new VR device is a self-contained headset with two wireless hand touch controllers with motion tracking that allows the student wearing it over their eyes and in their hands roam and move freely as they immerse themselves in a virtual reality.
It is also the first VR headset with casting abilities, allowing users to share their screen with a smartphone or compatible TV screen so the whole class can experience and learn from the virtual world as well.
Flinders Principal Stuart Meade said emerging technologies provided limitless possibilities for student learning.
“Flinders students of all ages will benefit in immeasurable ways from having access to these cutting-edge virtual reality devices in classrooms,” Mr Meade said.
“When students are able to interact with virtual reality content they are able to explore the subject with profound detail as a sensory experience through which they can virtually touch, see, and hear the content at the same time,” he said.
“This not only boosts their connection and understanding of the topic, but enables them to understand their potential to create, test and explore new ideas.
“Our teachers are excited to embrace the potential of new technologies and guide our students through using these innovative tools to challenge their critical, cooperative and creative thinking.”
Flinders Head of Learning and Innovation Edward Wright said previous VR devices had been cumbersome while the new technology provided a sleek, compact, portable and affordable version.
“These new Oculus Quest VR headsets and hand controls are an affordable option for schools, and provide significant opportunity for teaching and learning at Flinders,” Edward said.
“The use of virtual reality, drones and robotics in our classrooms is vital to give our students opportunities to develop knowledge and skills to future-proof themselves for careers that will exist when they leave school,” he said.
“Flinders’ three new VR devices will enable our students to create three-dimensional artworks and bring to life the products they design and investigate through the curriculum across most subjects.”
For example, the VR device will enable Flinders’ Geography students to explore the globe through daring experiences such as walking the Great Wall of China, exploring the abandoned Chernobyl site in the Ukraine, and even learning what it takes to survive a snowstorm in Antarctica.
Science VR Games will let students float through the blood vessels of the human body as a red blood cell, rotate enzymes in 3D, and explore the work of ground-breaking scientists using immersive storytelling.
Architecture students will be able to create an immersive walk-through of their draft structure and completed architecture designs to test the viability of their creations.
Multimedia students at Flinders will be able to test the games they have designed through this new VR device so they can experience their creations in a whole new way.
And Flinders’ Visual Art students will explore, like a cinematographer, how they can invite viewers to enter the art space and be immersed in the artist’s imagination.
Flinders will trial the VR devices across the Primary and Secondary Schools with the view to expand the program if the results and impact on teaching and learning are widely beneficial.