At the “Gymnasium Athenaeum” in Stade, pupils preparing for their Abitur are currently participating in the seminar “Language, Learning, and Technology”, using Virtual Reality equipment provided by HumaniVR.
They explore how VR technology helps them and their peers learn and explore the (virtual) world. In line with the school curriculum, they execute their own small research projects and formulate their findings in the form of a ‘seminar paper’ – similar to those they will encounter at the university in the not too distant future.
This cooperation between HumaniVR, the University of Hildesheim, and Gymnasium Athenaeum combines three pedagogic and didactic angles:
- It fosters critical media competencies: VR technology is undoubtedly fascinating for young people. But does it help us learn, work, socialize, etc beyond the initial “Wow!”-effect? What about long-term motivation? This seminar invites students to think beyond the user perspective, by putting them into the researcher position themselves.
- Pupils reflect on their own learning process by helping others learn. The “Learning-by-Teaching” paradigm is a well-established pedagogical concept: by putting students into the situation of having to design and test small learning modules for their peers or younger kids in their school – here: with VR – they are invited to see education (including their own) from a meta-perspective.
- They take first steps into empiricism: questions about the interaction of humans with technology are complicated, so thorough empirical work is necessary. Designing a systematic, methodological research project (though small it may be) and then write it up cogently are skills any future university student will need.
But enough theory 🙂
Here is a small glimpse at what students themselves have to say about their interests, their projects, and their experiences with VR at school.
The topic of my seminar paper will by “Emotional-Affective Learning with Virtual Reality”. I’d like to see if learning content with an emotional VR experience is more memorable in comparison to common methods of learning, such as in class, reading texts, and so on.
I’ll do that using the VR app “The Anne Frank House VR”, a virtual version of the house, in which Anne Frank hid during the Second World War.
I would like to find out if the affectedness, and the general emotions concerning the topic ‘Anne Frank’ are strengthened by using VR. I already have read studies saying that knowledge and facts that we experience in connection with strong emotions are stored in our long term memory much longer.
My project is called „Cooperative problem-solving in Virtual Reality”. This is about the VR app “Keep talking and nobody explodes”, a cooperative game, in which one partner has the manual to defuse a bomb, and the other one is wearing the VR goggles, sees the bomb and needs to defuse it properly. I would like to examine which aspects have an influence on cooperative problem-solving: their age? How well people know each other? If they have prior experience in VR? Who exactly is most successful in solving such problems in VR?
I also find the plans of Mark Zuckerberg and Meta very interesting, particularly that people will meet directly in VR in the future, to – for example – do sports and fitness together with friends. I think this should be very motivating.
The „Museum Schwedenspeicher“ in my hometown Stade offers a Virtual-Reality-based ‘stroll’ through Stade in the year 1620.
I want to research in how far this type of getting to know history is motivating for users and helps them learn information. I will work with groups of test subjects: one of the groups will have the virtual experience, the control group will receive the same information as a text. Then I will see in how far the medium influences the learning progress. I also have interviewed the museum’s pedagogue Mrs. Etzold. She explained to me the concept of the virtual tour, and how it is connected to the ‘real’ city tour outside.