virtual reality

Using virtual reality technology to tackle hate and extremism in England

Students viewing a smartphone-driven virtual reality app via Google Cardboard

Students viewing a smartphone-driven virtual reality app via Google Cardboard

We were awarded Google and Institute of Strategic Dialogue Innovation Fund in early 2018 to develop 360 degree videos to address hate and extremism in schools. The fund is supporting innovative projects on and offline that seek to disrupt, undermine, counter or provide positive alternatives to hate and extremism.

Our project is aimed at children from 9 years to 11 years of age. The 360 videos, which would be viewable via virtual reality viewers (e.g. Google Cardboard) or via YouTube, will capture the experiences of children who find it difficult to connect with others from different backgrounds.

We are hopeful that the immersive experiences will help to generate empathy for others and to promote values of tolerance and anti-hate. The 360 degree videos in this project will allow students and the wider public to experience a “day in the life” of a young person from a socially excluded community, and in doing so foster social inclusion in a new immersive and engaging way.

More details of the project are at this link.

Colleagues involved at The Open University are: Peter Bloom, Evangelia Baralou and me.

Mobile virtual reality in environmental education

20161124_142720 (1).jpg

Year 7, Geography field trip of Prestwood Nature Reserve

Case study on the use of Google Expeditions in outdoor fieldwork

Our paper has been published in Journal of Virtual Studies, vol. 9, no. 2, 2018, pp. 25-36. 

In this paper, we have reported students' experiences of using Google Expeditions, a mobile virtual reality application, to learn about the environmental impact of large scale developments on nature reserves. Students were on a geography field trip to Prestwood Nature Reserve not very far from their school. They looked at Borneo rain forests via the Google Expeditions app while in the field and became aware of the issues created by large-scale development on the environment. They were able to discuss and reflect on the implications of planned large scale development (a high speed railway, called HS2) close to their local nature reserve (that they were visiting) in the Chilterns. 

The pdf file of the entire issue of the journal is here (1.7 MB)

Acknowledgements

We are grateful to our colleague, Dr Trevor Collins, Knowldege Media Institute, UK's Open University, who guided us on how we (the research team) could use Google Expeditions and the kit (mobile phones, router and the Tablet) in an outdoor field trip.

Mrs Melanie Collins, Head of Humanities, Pipers Corner School, ran the field trip and is one of the authors of this paper.  

THE PROJECT AND GOOGLE EXPEDITIONS

The Open University (OU), UK, has been conducting a school-based research project (funded by Google and the OU) on the potential use of mobile virtual reality via Google Expeditions in science and geography in school education.

Google Expeditions is a mobile virtual reality (VR) which is being promoted by Google in schools globally. Google Expeditions are guided tours (field trips) of places that students experience on a smartphone through a virtual reality viewer called Google cardboard

An expedition in the Google Expeditions (GEs) app comprises of 360-degree photospheres of places and events - for example, Buckingham Palace; The Great Barrier Reef and the coral bleaching in the Reef due to climate change; the Borneo Rainforest and the International Space Station. These visualisations enable students and educators to experience places that may be hard or even impossible to visit in real life.

The GEs app (available for Android and iOS platforms) has over 700 expeditions.

Using a tablet and via the GEs app, the educator guides the students to look at the scenes of an expedition. The students use the app in the ‘follower’ mode and experience the GE/VR through the smart-phone embedded within a VR viewer.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

For more pointers to blog-posts and news items related to our research on Google Expeditions, please see our project web-page on Google Expeditions.

Related blog post to this paper is here: Connecting the learning from an international context to a local context in geography fieldwork via Google Expeditions

PROJECT TEAM

Professor Shailey Minocha and Dr Ana-Despina Tudor at The Open University, UK 

Dr. Matthew Kam, Research Lead, Google Education Products Team

The project partners in the UK are:

Field Studies Council (Dr Steve Tilling and Mr Dave Morgan);

Association for Science Education (Mr Richard Needham and Ms Marianne Cutler); and

Geographical Association (Ms Becky Kitchen).

Virtual Reality in education and for employability

3D virtual environments in Second Life and developed using Unity 3D; virtual reality through 360-degree videos and 360-degree photospheres viewed through virtual reality viewers

3D virtual environments in Second Life and developed using Unity 3D; virtual reality through 360-degree videos and 360-degree photospheres viewed through virtual reality viewers

Webinar at the ALT Online Winter Conference 2017

On 13 December 2017, Dr Ana-Despina Tudor (@AATudor) and I presented a webinar at the ALT Online Winter Conference 2017.

Virtual reality in education and for employability

Virtual reality is becoming pervasive in several domains - in arts and film-making, for environmental causes, in medical education, in disaster management training, in sports broadcasting, in entertainment, and in supporting patients with dementia. An awareness of virtual reality technology and its integration in curriculum design will provide and enhance employability skills for current and future workplaces.

In this webinar, we described the evolution of virtual reality technologies and our research in 3D virtual worlds, 3D virtual environments developed in Unity 3D, and mobile virtual reality via 360-degree photospheres (e.g. as in the Google Expeditions app) and 360-degree videos. We discussed the technological and pedagogical affordances of virtual reality technologies and how they contribute towards learning and teaching. We discussed the significance of using virtual reality in education, in training and skills development, and for employability.

Presentation and recording

The presentation can be downloaded as a pdf from here (16.5 MB).

Webinar recording is at this link

Questions and answers during the session

Compiled by Dr Ana-Despina Tudor: Please refer to the  presentation (pdf file) for the context of the questions.

Question: Other than Google, are there any virtual reality (VR) education companies/start-ups out there that you would recommend we should have a look at?

The Guardian VR App: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/ng-interactive/2016/nov/10/virtual-reality-by-the-guardian or http://bit.ly/2fFo33B

The Economist: A 360-degree video about the oceans and corals that has the VR effect in the Chrome browser. http://econ.st/2nXIUIt and http://bit.ly/2BhB1mu

WaterAid: A VR documentary about the water crisis following the earthquake in Nepal in 2015. http://aftershock.wateraid.org/

Nearpod: A platform for interactive lessons. https://nearpod.com/

Daden, consultancy in the UK: http://www.daden.co.uk They have developed several applications for training and education. “Fieldscapes” (https://www.fieldscapesvr.com) has a mobile VR field trip to the Carding Mill Valley in Shropshire, UK.

Digital Explorers: provide 360-degree videos of various locations that can be accessed in the browser or via a VR viewer. http://digitalexplorer.com/

Class VR: Virtual reality on own head-mounted display (does not require to own a smartphone). Offers content for both virtual reality and augmented reality (AR).  http://www.classvr.com/

VR on PlayStation (example), please have a look at this article: https://www.theverge.com/2017/12/12/16767792/last-guardian-vr-demo-ps4-playstation-vr

Question: How have you dealt with accessibility in VR? For example, hearing-impaired students in Second Life when voice chat is going on, or visually-impaired students seeing what is going on at all?

In Second Life, we tend to transcribe along with a voice chat. In fact, I (Shailey) have done live-transcriptions in various Second Life events to describe the voice chat and context of conversations so that hearing-impaired users are catered for. For partially-sighted users, we tend to describe the scenes as we go along but I (Shailey) have encountered more of hearing impairments in Second Life than visual impairments.

The Google Expeditions App doesn’t have any audio. So, it is not a barrier for people with hearing impairments. However, the App can’t be used effectively for partially sighted people or with no vision at all unless the usage is accompanied by some audio commentary. When Google Expeditions runs in the Lead or Guide mode, for example, when an educator is driving the demonstration or lesson, there is an introductory text and examples of questions for each of the scenes in the expedition – which an educator or a teaching assistant may use to describe the scenes.

When the Google Expeditions app was first launched, the app could only run in the ‘follower mode’ (student) but the students can also run the expeditions in 'guide' mode – and, therefore, have descriptions of the scenes. So, even a fellow student may be able to help describe the scenes to a visually impaired student. Further, a partially sighted user may choose to run the expeditions on a Tablet (bigger screen) and without the VR viewers for greater visibility of the scenes as compared to a phone-screen.

Question: As a replacement for real field trips, is there any worry of losing out on new discoveries? You can only experience what has been created by your teachers — you can't prove them wrong.

We don’t perceive virtual field trips as a replacement for outdoor fieldwork. The design of the virtual geology field trip (Virtual Skiddaw) was based in the learning activities and curricula and our geologist colleague Dr Tom Argles replicated the physical field trip in the design of the virtual field trip. But we do understand your point about the selectivity by the educator and missing out the aspects that students would otherwise observe if they were in an outdoor field trip. This may be another critical reason that virtual field trips should be seen as supporting a physical field trip rather than replacing it.

Using a virtual field trip before a field trip can familiarise students with a place, can help them assess the risks and prepare better, can raise their curiosity and help them formulate questions and conduct research while in the field. During the field trip, students can use the virtual field trip(s) to compare locations. After a field trip, VR can be used to help students revise their learning and re-visit locations from a different perspective.  

In Google Expeditions, there can be indeed a selectivity effect of the virtual locations being shown, as pointed out in this question. However, the 360-degree view gives the whole picture of a location. Students can look up and down, left or right. The content creators have used so far birds’ eye view images, images from the ground level and underwater.

Also, there are apps such as Cardboard Camera that allow users to take 360-degree photospheres. If students are able to visit these locations, students can compare the photospheres they took with the ones taken by the educator and have a comprehensive view and perception of the place they have visited.

Question: How do you account for variations in student digital literacy?

So far we haven’t faced any issues with students using the mobile VR on smartphones. As researchers, we have been at hand to help during lessons too. We were invited to run lessons using Google expeditions by those educators who had already been using technology-enabled initiatives in their lessons. There are many educators who raised this concern and noted that many of their colleagues might find the technology difficult to manage for a class, such as: charging up to 30 phones, conducting system updates, downloading and maintaining the latest version of the app, running the app, setting up the network so that the tablet of the educator communicates with the smartphones used by students.

We feel that it is the educator’s digital capability and digital literacy that will influence the students’ digital literacy and capabilities.

Question: Do you prefer the students to sit on chairs, fixed chairs, rotating office chairs, cushions on the floor or stand?

It depends on the preference of students and educators. Some students preferred to stand while others were lying on the ground. When students stood up, they were advised to turn around but not walk around, as they might stumble or hit furniture. Educators gave them frequent pauses to discuss what they were seeing or to do some written activities so that they don’t feel unwell or feel nausea by looking at VR without breaks.

Question: top tip on where to start - low cost?

The Google Expeditions app is free and can be downloaded on iOS and Android phones. You will need to buy a VR viewer (starting from £5). Also, there are online guides on how to build your own cardboard VR viewer.

As an alternative and in the absence of smartphones, educators can use the app on tablets (but it would be a 2D effect only).

You can also download other Apps such as the Guardian VR to get a feel of the potential of this technology and its possible use in education.

Question: Are there any VR or AR projects to expand beyond visual and audio senses (such as touch), to completely immerse in a virtual world?

A haptic glove that works with HTC Vive: http://bit.ly/2B7nv1O

There are projects in higher education that use haptic feedback for medical training, for instance: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22402689

Affordances of mobile virtual reality and their role in learning and teaching

Photos from lessons using Google expeditions and a simulation of the Respiratory System (one of the over 600 Google Expeditions)

Conference paper on affordances of Google Expeditions

On 5th July, we presented our paper 'Affordances of Mobile Virtual Reality and their Role in Learning and Teaching' (available from Open University's Research Repository http://oro.open.ac.uk/49441/) at the British Computer Society Interaction Conference at University of Sunderland.

In this paper, we have reported the technological affordances of a virtual reality smartphone-driven educational app – Google Expeditions. An affordance implies the educators' and students' perceptions of how Google Expeditions (GEs) mobile virtual reality support their teaching and learning, and influence their experiences with virtual reality (VR).

Based on a large exploratory study in Google-funded Virtual Reality Research Award, we have identified 10 affordances of GEs in our data. In the paper, for each of the affordances, we discuss the perceptions of our participants: how their experiences of learning and teaching with VR were shaped by GE’s affordances. For each of the affordances and the associated perceptions, we have included quotes to exemplify the experiences.

Role of Affordances of Google Expeditions in Learning and Teaching

We discuss how these empirically-derived affordances support pedagogical approaches of:

  • experiential learning; 
  • bridging virtual fieldwork with physical field trips; and
  • inquiry-based learning. 

Adoption of Virtual Reality in Education

We discuss that the adoption of Google Expeditions or Virtual Reality, in general, in
education is limited by various factors:

  • the discipline/subject being studied;
  • match with the curriculum; and
  • resources available including time, budgets and opportunities for continuing professional development of educators.

Our findings suggest that the most effective use of VR will be when it is combined with other technologies such as videos, podcasts, wikis, blogs or forums, and mobile apps.

The adoption of VR in education is still in its infancy and its development will progress and mature as educators (and students) perceive and exploit the affordances of this technology for their teaching and learning. 

Please have a look at our paper  and please leave your comments/queries below. 

THE PROJECT TEAM

Dr Ana-Despina Tudor and Professor Shailey Minocha at The Open University, UK 

Dr. Matthew Kam, Research Lead, Google Education Products Team

The project partners in the UK are:

Field Studies Council (Dr Steve Tilling and Mr David Morgan);

Association for Science Education (Mr Richard Needham and Ms Marianne Cutler); and

Geographical Association (Ms Rebecca Kitchen).

Virtual worlds for real experiences

Picture:  Educators' meeting of the Virtual Worlds Educators Roundtable (VWER) in Second Life

Picture: Educators' meeting of the Virtual Worlds Educators Roundtable (VWER) in Second Life

My inaugural lecture Virtual Worlds for Real Experiences will be held on Tuesday, 20 June 2017 at The Open University's campus in Milton Keynes, UK. I will discuss how online technologies such as social software, activity trackers, virtual reality and 3D virtual worlds bridge time and places, interleaving the virtual with the real – allowing people to communicate and collaborate with those whom they may have never met, experience places they may never be able to visit, shop, learn, and do research.

I will focus on three domains that we have conducted research on over the last few years:

  • social software;
  • digital health wearables or activity trackers; and
  • virtual reality and 3D virtual worlds. 
Picture:  Designing virtual worlds for real experiences

Picture: Designing virtual worlds for real experiences

The underlying themes of these three domains that I will discuss in the Lecture are:

  • how online technologies can empower people - to become more socially connected;
  • how being online can alleviate social isolation and loneliness;
  • how online technologies can provide real experiences - where people get value from their online interactions and, through that broaden their horizons; and
  • how online technologies can support individual and collective learning, skills development and knowledge construction.

In these initiatives, the design of the online technology is paramount for providing real experiences to the users. The dimensions of the design that I will elaborate in the Lecture are:

  • design of online spaces;
  • design of activities;
  • setting expectations of the users; and
  • scaffolding social norms, rules, roles and etiquette for interactions. 

The live-stream on the day and the video recording after the Lecture will be at this link.

The hashtags for this event are: #OpenMinds #OUTalks

 

Workshop on Google Expeditions at the Geographical Association Conference

Photo: Smartphone-driven Virtual Reality-based Google Expeditions App workshop

Photo: Smartphone-driven Virtual Reality-based Google Expeditions App workshop

Workshop title: Investigating the role of virtual reality in geography via Google Expeditions at the Geographical Association's 2017 Annual Conference on Friday, 21 April at 9 am. 

Workshop organisers: Dr Steve Tilling, Dr Ana-Despina Tudor, Ms Becky Kitchen and Professor Shailey Minocha

About Google ExpeditionsGoogle Expeditions is a Virtual Reality mobile Application (app) which consists of field trips of places that students experience on a smartphone through a Virtual Reality (VR) viewer called Google cardboard.  The Google Expeditions app (available for Android and iOS platforms) has more than 500 expeditions. An expedition comprises of 360-degree photospheres of a location (e.g. Rio de Janeiro). Google Expeditions enable visualisation of locations which may not be feasible or easy to visit in real life (e.g. Galapagos islands or the Tolbachik volcano). Further, Google Expeditions have simulations to envision concepts and systems such as the human heart, the respiratory system, or the process of pollination.

Details of the workshop: Participants will have the opportunity of a hands-on session with Google Expeditions and will be invited to discuss/evaluate the outcomes of a Google-funded project that has investigated the role of virtual reality in geography and science school education.

Our research objectives for geography education in schools have been:

  • —Whether and how smartphone-based Virtual Reality with 360 photospheres like Google Expeditions (GEs) can be integrated in the Geography curriculum - e.g. teaching geographical concepts and phenomena
  • —How smartphone-driven Virtual Reality like in GEs can support geographical enquiry?
  • —How smartphone-driven Virtual Reality like in GEs can complement physical field trips?

In the workshop, we will specifically focus on the role of Virtual Reality in geographical enquiry - both in the context of classroom practice and for physical field trips.

Google expeditions and fieldwork: friends or foes?

The Association for Science Education (ASE) Annual Conference

Workshop on Saturday 7th January 2017

The Research Project:

Google Expeditions (https://www.google.co.uk/edu/expeditions/) is a Virtual Reality (VR) approach being promoted by Google in schools globally. Google Expeditions are guided tours (field trips) of places that students experience on a smartphone through a virtual reality viewer called Google cardboard.

The Open University (OU), UK are conducting a school-based research project (funded by Google and the OU; July 2016 - June 2017) on the potential use of VR via Google Expeditions in secondary school science and geography.

The project (http://www.shaileyminocha.info/google-expeditions/) is being co-led by Field Studies Council, and UK's Association for Science Education and Geographical Association are the two partnering organisations.

About the Workshop:

This workshop will provide an opportunity to try out Google Expeditions and to explore how they could be used to support teaching and learning, including fieldwork.

Are Google Expeditions a threat to traditional field trips or could they become a complementary tool for strengthening the quality of outdoor learning, for example by providing an immersive technology which adds context and substance to pre-field preparation, in-field activities and post-field revision and reflection?

Presenters:

Ana-Despina Tudor and Shailey Minocha (The Open University, UK)

Steve Tilling (Field Studies Council)

Marianne Cutler (ASE) and Richard Needham (ASE and Vicia Learning Solutions Ltd.)

Workshop location at the ASE Conference: 

Henley Business School, 101, University of Reading, UK

Related posts:

Google Expeditions and Lesson Plans

Picture courtesy: Dr. Ana-Despina Tudor

Picture courtesy: Dr. Ana-Despina Tudor

Google Expeditions

Google Expeditions are virtual field trips in the form of 360 photospheres that can be viewed through virtual reality headsets called Google Cardboard that are driven via the Google Expeditions App on the smartphones.

There are over 300 Google Expeditions listed in this spreadsheet: http://bit.ly/1GxJ9xf

Some of these expeditions have lessons plans in TES: https://www.tes.com/resources/search/?q=%23Googleexpeditions

About the project

In the Google- and UK's Open University-funded project, we are investigating the role of Google Expeditions in Geography and Science learning and teaching in schools. Details of our project are available in this blog post

UK's Open University (Shailey Minocha and Ana-Despina Tudor) is working with Google and leading UK education organisations including the Field Studies Council (Steve Tilling and David Morgan), Geographical Association (Rebecca Kitchen and Alan Kinder) and The Association for Science Education (Marianne Cutler and Richard Needham). 

Project webpage

The project webpage on this site is here.

Virtual reality boosts students’ results

Use of Google Cardboard to experience Google Expeditions (photo courtesy: Dr Ana-Despina Tudor)

Use of Google Cardboard to experience Google Expeditions (photo courtesy: Dr Ana-Despina Tudor)

"Virtual and augmented reality can enable teaching and training in situations which would otherwise be too hazardous, costly or even impossible in the real world." Edwin Smith, in Raconteur Report on Virtual and Augmented Reality, http://rcnt.eu/9ci

Our project on Google Expeditions is mentioned in this article "Virtual reality boosts students’ results" has featured in the report – Virtual and Augmented Reality (the report is available for downloading from the article's web-page, on the left hand side).

ABOUT THE PROJECT

Our research project’s objective is examine the role of Virtual Reality (VR) in science and geography in schools. 

On this Google Expeditions project, UK's Open University (Shailey Minocha and Ana-Despina Tudor) is working with Google and leading UK education organisations including the Field Studies Council (Steve Tilling and David Morgan), Geographical Association (Rebecca Kitchen and Alan Kinder) and The Association for Science Education (Marianne Cutler and Richard Needham). The project is funded by Google and The Open University, UK.

NEWS ITEM RELATED TO THE PROJECT

A recent news item on our project is available at Open University's website at this link.

Virtual Reality in Science and Geography Education

Two Science teachers looking at Google Expeditions via the Google Cardboard viewers (picture courtesy: Dr. Duncan Banks)

Two Science teachers looking at Google Expeditions via the Google Cardboard viewers (picture courtesy: Dr. Duncan Banks)

Google Expeditions

A Google Expedition (GE) is a Virtual Reality approach comprising of 360 degree photospheres of a location (e.g. a museum, or a city like Rio de Janeiro, an active volcano) along with the description of location, points of interest and suggested questions for discussion. Using a Tablet and via the GEs App, a teacher can guide students. Students experience the GE through the smartphones embedded within the VR viewers called Google cardboard.

About the project and ASE article

Our research project’s objective is examine the role of Virtual Reality (VR) in science and geography in schools. Details of our Google and The Open University-funded research project on Google Expeditions have appeared in The Association for Science Education's in-house magazine Education for Science, September 2016.

The article is not open access but we have received a pdf version from the editor - which is available here.

On this Google Expeditions project, The Open University (Shailey Minocha and Ana-Despina Tudor) is working with Google and leading UK education organisations including the Field Studies Council (Steve Tilling), Geographical Association (Rebecca Kitchen and Alan Kinder) and The Association for Science Education (Marianne Cutler and Richard Needham).

press release

A press release of our project is on our university's website, Teaching in Virtual Reality, 27th September 2016.

Research Associate position in Google-funded Virtual Reality research project

Picture courtesy:  https://flic.kr/p/DmnKXh

Picture courtesy: https://flic.kr/p/DmnKXh

Research Associate opening in our Google-funded virtual field trips research project in collaboration with UK's Field Studies Council. The position involves conducting research on a Google-funded Virtual Reality Research project. The focus of this project is to investigate the pedagogical and usability effectiveness of virtual reality (VR)-based virtual field trips - Google Expeditions (GEs) - in fieldwork in subjects such as biology and geography that have a long tradition of physical fieldwork. 

The details of the position are here: http://www.jobs.ac.uk/job/ANJ829/research-associate-in-human-computer-interaction-and-education-research/

or on The Open University's website: http://www3.open.ac.uk/employment/job-details.asp?id=9177

The last date for receiving the applications is noon of 5 May 2016.

Google Virtual Reality Research Award

Our project 'Pedagogical and usability evaluations of Google Expeditions' has received the Google Virtual Research Award. This project will be led by Shailey in collaboration with Dr Steve Tilling of UK's Field Studies Council and in association with UK's Geographical Association (GA) (Alan Kinder , Chief Executive, GA) and The Association for Science Education (ASE) (Marianne Cutler , Director for Curriculum Innovation, ASE). 

Google Expeditions (GEs)  are guided tours (field trips) of places that students experience on a smartphone through a virtual reality viewer called Google cardboard. GEs are comprised of virtual reality panoramas and are led by a guide or teacher. Using a Tablet, teachers can guide up to 50 students wearing the virtual reality (VR) viewers and point out highlights while referring to editable notes.

Google is teaming up with hundreds of schools to teleport students to far-flung places often seen in their textbooks. The program called Expeditions uses virtual reality. This is part of a widening initiative not just in the U.S., but also in Australia, Brazil, New Zealand and the U.K.

The focus of our project is to investigate the pedagogical effectiveness of GEs, in biology and geography fieldwork – subjects that have a long tradition of physical fieldwork.