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Remember this article about virtual reality and how it helps teaching? The main point was that it makes teaching more enjoyable and memorable, therefore it allows the content of the lesson to be memorable for years. Now you can read about an actual tool that can be implemented in a Mathematics classroom, and learn to use VR yourself!
The aim of this article is to explain how to introduce the immersive virtual reality in the learning process of Mathematics with CoSpaces. This tool provides a programming environment for both teachers and students to create their own virtual reality as a means of content expression. This tool unites the visual power of its graphic environment with the utility of visual programming by blocks since it uses the Blockly add-on that allows coding different actions in the elements of the scene in an easy and engaged way. You can use it in both a primary or secondary classroom.
The virtual reality classroom allows for a learning experience, and facilitates the mental construction of three-dimensional space (Sharma, 2013), and CoSpaces allows the students to create their own virtual reality contents that could be watched with a simple Google Cardboard or a smartphone. Using VR in classroom is not just a new resource, according to the new technologies, this kind of resources provides students the possibility to express themselves and their knowledge in a different way, using a new style of digital literacy.
Many people normally use technology to consume, but not to create. Now, people can use technology to create and students can use the educational resources not just as a content server. Nowadays, educational technology is a resource to create, to become a maker.
When you create a virtual reality with different objects, you can program different actions, such as movements, sounds or dialogues. In order to code the objects, CoSpaces uses Blockly. It is a visual programming language, similar to Scratch. You just add, adapt and combine code blocks via drag and drop; it’s easy to use. Even beginners can code animated and interactive experiences within CoSpaces. This complement allows students to work with computational thinking in their own virtual reality, making a truly motivating learning experience. When young students use computational thinking, they are not just learning to program, they develop “design strategies (such as modularization and iterative design) that carry over to non-programming domains” (Resnick et al., 2009). Computational thinking offers students and teachers new strategies for everyday work on any subject, especially in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). Since Seymour Papert (1980) considered in his first works an utopistic perspective about how computer would be used in order to improve the learning process, a lot of teaching tools like CoSpaces or Scratch have been developed, and now there are great opportunities for students to become makers of their own digital contents. In this way, quoting Seymour Papert: “the role of the teacher is to create the conditions for invention rather than provide ready-made knowledge” (1980).
There are two examples about how virtual reality can be used in STEM education in order to improve and make the learning process more attractive and motivating.
Virtual museum about irrational numbers
When a teacher plans activities for the students, an oral presentation for example, usually not all the students have the necessary skills to express the content for a given subject. An oral presentation, nowadays, is a kind of work that normally all the students carry out in many subjects. So, why don’t we offer them different possibilities?
When I planned a presentation about irrational numbers and their presence in art and nature in class, those students who are really shy, didn’t make it. So I gave them the possibility to make a virtual museum about irrational numbers with CoSpaces.
Word problems in a virtual reality
When a Maths teacher plans a word problem session, the students normally express some rejection. The problem solving abilities are very important for the mathematical competence development and we need to look for situations where solving a word problem has become a motivating activity. For example, recommending everyday situations is one of the most important resources. But, how can we use technology and educational resources to engage students to solve word problems?
In this activity, the students work in pairs in order to create a virtual reality showing a word problem about three-dimensional geometric shapes. Each problem is shared with the classroom with a QR code, and students have to scan as many codes as they can in one hour and solve the problems exposed. With this activity they are working different abilities to solve problems as they normally do working in a traditional classroom, but with a highly motivating factor: using new technologies in order to create their own virtual reality to portray a word problem.
3rd Scientix Conference
In May, I had the great opportunity to share this great teaching experience at the 3rd Scientix Conference. Here is the link to the presentation used in the Conference:
Papert, S. (1980). Mindstorms: Children, computers, and powerful ideas (Second Edi). New York: Basic Books.
Resnick, M., Maloney, J., Rusk, N., Eastmond, E., Brennan, K., Millner, A., … Kafai, Y. (2009). Scratch: Programing for all. Comunication of the ACM, 52(11), 62–67.
Sharma, S., Agada, R., & Ruffin, J. (2013, April). Virtual reality classroom as an constructivist approach. In Southeastcon, 2013 Proceedings of IEEE (pp. 1-5). IEEE.
Author: Álvaro Molina Ayuso, I.E.S. Santa Rosa de Lima (Córdoba, Spain)
CoSpaces Edu Ambassador