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Grant Spotlight: Virtual Reality Goggles

On a Thursday morning in November, a 6th-grade science class of Roderick Elementary School got to take part in a “virtual field trip” via VR Goggles thanks to a WEST-funded $10,000 grant. Assisted by the Google Expeditions platform, Mrs. Haughey led her class in an immersive tour of optics and light waves. The students had no trouble setting up the Google Virtual Goggles – comprised of an android phone and a headset – as they anxiously awaited their first sight. The course ran like a slideshow, with Mrs. Haughey controlling the visuals from a tablet – which also provided her with an outline of pre-determined dialogue that seamlessly transitioned that class through the experience.

Each “slide” featured 360 degrees of realistic three-dimensional sights, met every time with an excited chorus of wows and whoas! Within a given slide, arrows guided the viewer to turn their head to a specific sight that provided a learning point or sparked discussion. Throughout the course, students were encouraged to flip the goggles on and off to take notes, answer questions, and give their eyes a rest. On one slide, the students were brought back to a time when dinosaurs roamed the Earth. A tilt of the head revealed a Tyrannosaurus Rex towering over the viewer as it wades through shallow water. Placing the viewer at water level, the VR enables the students to see how water has bent (or “refracted”) the light rays, creating illusions of the dinosaur’s lower leg being offset and the fish not being in the location it appears to the dinosaur. Any casual onlooker would be impressed by the high engagement level of the students, who answered questions when prompted and were quick to provide details on what they were seeing. As the lesson completed, one final slide previewed the class’s next “expedition” and the anticipation seemed unanimous.

Without leaving the confines of the classroom, the students were instilled with the newfound energy and curiosity that any field trip strives to achieve. And the sense of wonder was not limited to the course material; multiple students after class spoke of their intrigue with the VR itself and the cutting-edge technology that makes it happen. When asked where they’d like to go next, the students seemed to recognize that the possibilities of the platform were endless, as they rattled off historic time periods and far-off countries

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