What do I need to know about this stuff?
The most important thing you should know is that things are going to change and it will be for the better, if we do it right. I often say, “Emerging technology has finally caught up to the creativity and genius of youth.”
Most people, especially children, are post-book literate. This does not mean that they can’t or don’t read. It means that their reading is in service of other social media consumption. Their knowledge is attained through different forms of media. And it's social. That means that their knowledge set is distributed and dynamic. They don’t use static information from books. Their knowledge is distributed among each other and the world and it changes constantly as the world changes around them. It is what makes it possible to start a revolution with some cell phones and a social media app. Youth take ownership of their world and, moreover, they help to create it.
Our job is to help guide them and teach them to be responsible in their use of emerging technologies. Students are taking charge of their learning. They search for and consume material that interests them and yearn to contribute and create material of their own.
So, your job is going to get a lot more exciting and easier! Your students are going to start to enjoy learning again because the tools you provide them have finally caught up to their creativity and genius.
Is virtual reality recommended for young children under the age of 13?
The 13 year age consideration is for privacy. Apps share personal data and social VR has recommended age considerations. In regards to health, recent studies have shown there is more eye strain using laptops than VR. We use technology all day, every day. Your overall technology policy should encourage responsible usage of all devices and an awareness of the power of the devices, both good and bad. This is important because children as young as second grade will want to start creating materials of their own and it is important to be responsible in the real and virtual worlds we create.
Which headset do you recommend?
I do not promote any brand. I think each purchase should take into account the specifics of the school and needs of the student (this is true in industry also). I do recommend 6DOF headsets over 3DOF headsets in most cases. Kindergarten through 2nd grade can use the 3DOF headsets but children become bored with being merely consumers of content. They want to contribute and create. This requires at least a 6DOF headset and I also recommend buying at least one PC based headset.
I do NOT recommend talking to sales associates at places such as Best Buy. THEY DO NOT KNOW WHAT YOU NEED. I don’t care how nice the sales associate is to you. They are sales associates, not educators. Even if they previously worked within education, their current job is to make money for their company, not educate children or train your workforce. It breaks my heart to see schools invest in garbage that large companies dump on to them to make a buck. This includes apps and software solutions. Please be aware that this emerging technology field is full of people trying to make money, not educate or train. So be careful.
Please send me an email if you need some advice. I’ll do the best I can to help.
How many devices do I need?
Most schools or business can start with 5-10 headsets. Yes, that is all you need to get started. Not a classroom set. In fact, it is better to NOT have a headset for each student. Remember, these are not books so we have to start thinking differently about the possibilities of emerging technology and the key word is SOCIAL. I will explain why down below--so keep reading. If you are at a high school, it is nice to have 10 or so per department if you can afford it. Students will not be in headsets all day, every day so multiple teachers can share a set of 5-10 with no problem. Sales associates will try to dump high quantities of substandard headsets on you. Refer to the section above about sales associates! Please send me an email if you need some advice. I’ll do the best I can to help you.
Not many schools have the ability to buy more than a few headsets. In these cases, make all the headsets the same. In rare cases, schools may have the ability to spend as much as they want or need. If you have the ability to do so, I highly recommend buying a different type of headset every once in a while. It’s like having a Mac AND a PC. The students should be comfortable moving between headsets. If you are fortunate to have a lot of resources, it will be fine if you buy a piece of equipment and learn its strengths and flaws as a way of teaching your students to discern between quality products. But I only recommend this if you have a lot of resources to do so.
What should I buy to keep them in?
I completely understand the need to protect technology from a school’s perspective: the expense, the possible theft, the need to protect investment.
Here is the thing: making technology inaccessible or seen as “special” decreases its use and reduces your return on investment. It is important to understand that no new technology will last a LONG time. It will last about as long as a cell phone. Our youth understand that technology is disposable. Things are changing rapidly and technology changes every day. That is a good thing. Remember that the world is dynamic and our job is to teach students how to adapt to that rapidly changing world.
Here is another thing: if you focus your technology investments, you will get more bang for your buck. Most vendors dump a lot of garbage on schools. If you use your resources to only invest in high quality emerging technology, you will find that your budget goes further. This requires research. I give some advice below on how to stay connected in the groups that know what to buy.
How do I make sure they last a long time?
If a headset breaks, GREAT! Now take it apart and see how it works! This is a much better solution than keeping technology locked away, decreasing in value and becoming obsolete with every second. Use it. Often and fearlessly. Our job is to help students embrace technology and use it responsibly. Don’t be afraid. I promise you it will be OK.
Do I need a software solution to manage headsets?
No. If you incorporate headset management as part of your curriculum then you can teach your students how to push updates, download apps and maintain the hardware. If you don’t know how to do those things, that’s fine. Your students know how. Trust me. They know how. They can teach you. If they don’t know how, they can find out. Software solutions to classroom management limit the potential of emerging technologies because they impose older ways of thinking about technology onto newer ways of thinking and doing things. You will hear me say, “You can’t code classroom management.” Classroom management has to evolve with this new technology to embrace the genius of the children in our schools. Teachers of young students can and should rely on older students within the school to help. This benefits students and the schools in so many ways including increasing attendance and decreasing discipline issues because students feel like they are making a difference.
How will I know what the students are doing in the headsets?
You will become familiar with the apps. You will hear what they are doing and see their movements. Also, I pair students with other students: one in the headset, one not in a headset. Students “spot” each other to make sure the student in the headset is safe. The curriculum I develop helps the students work together. This collaboration increases understanding and recall. They help each other when they don’t understand content or if the headset isn’t working correctly. I also train several students to help manage headset hardware troubleshooting. I call on those students to help others when a headset goes down or an app isn’t loading. This allows me to roam the room and manage the students’ learning experience. It is important to understand that student proficiency of technology is one of the goals. Other worthy goals include ownership of and enthusiasm towards learning. You can recognize a student excited about learning and that is how you will know what they are doing in the headset.
What should I do now?
Get involved with groups of other brave teachers and students!
We Make Reality Discord Group: https://discord.gg/GsejMDe
Educators in VR Discord Group: https://discord.gg/xfjsPg
Women in VR Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/womeninvr/
Sign up to be a part of the Virtual World Society: https://www.virtualworldsociety.org/
There are many people to follow on Twitter and other social media platforms.
There are also groups that meet in real life through MeetUp.com or similar sites.
There are regular meetings within VR platforms such as AltSpaceVR.
Hopefully, I’ve answered most of your questions. If you have more questions, please feel free to email me.
If you would like me to be your keynote speaker or train your teachers or employees, please send me an email to book me.