One of a pair of parallel features on VR technology used via the iPad, this part takes a look at the UAE VR app. Take a virtual tour around the largest mosque in the country and inspire students in ways previously impossible without visiting the location.
Virtual reality technology will become core to education in the next ten years. There, I said it. Being able to immerse students in otherwise impossible locales and situations provides priceless and limitless potential for the classroom.
If you follow us on Twitter (@iPadEducatorsAE) you may have noticed a few months back that I posted a pic of my daughter wearing my Google Cardboard style VR headset. I've been playing around with this for a while now but the key word here is playing. There's one major problem with the integration of this tech in the classroom - it's designed for smartphones... which primary schools don't have. Even forward thinking schools that perhaps invested in iPod Touches (which can be coerced into the simple VR housing units) back in the day will most likely have abandoned them in favour of iPads by now.
My friend and constant source of inspiration, Lee Parkinson (@ICT_MrP) recently wrote an excellent piece on harnessing VR apps in the classroom. Like Lee, I was using the Epic Citadel app a few years back to immerse students in an historical world to inspire creative writing. What Lee has twigged is that some of the apps that are designed for VR headsets can be utilised in single screen rather than dual screen mode. As such the immersive experience is maintained (naturally to a somewhat lesser degree) but can now be delivered via an iPad with the gyroscope motion control enabled. In his post, Lee had chosen the Sharks VR app to allow students to explore underwater - take a look:
I have something more pertinent to educators in this region, namely UAE VR.
Developed by the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority, UAE VR is in its early stages of development but already has great potential for learning within the local education system both in terms of social studies work and Islamic Studies. It currently has one virtual location to explore: Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.
And I do mean explore. This is more than using an app like Pangea or 360 Cities to simply access a single panoramic image; users can navigate between different locations around the site and even inside the building. There is even unprecedented access to look around inside the Mosque's library - never before seen by the General public!
Throughout the virtual tour, you can listen to a narrated guide in English or Arabic to give you more information. You can also direct the view towards key hotspots to receive additional information. Movement is accomplished in the same way as direction icons can be targeted to allow access to new paths. True, it would have been even better if the app did work more like Epic Citadel and less like Epic Zen Garden in this respect but it is a minor quibble.
Students could virtually visit the Mosque using iPads and take notes on paper during their trip. Allow them to snap screengrabs too and the combined text and images would form the basis of some incredible writing opportunities, such as:
- a recount of their virtual trip - a descriptive piece about the Mosque itself - a report about the Mosque and its history
- instructional writing describing the route through the Mosque - poetry inspired by the sights seen within the app
As mentioned, the app is in its first iteration, with more locations promised with each update. I look forwards to seeing where they take us next...
This feature is part of a pair. The sister piece focuses on another location that is important to me (and where I lived prior to moving to Dubai) - London. You can find that piece via the Features section.