Beyond gaming: virtual reality hits the classroom
Oculus, creator of the Rift, made headlines a few months ago when Facebook acquired the virtual reality tech startup for $2 billion, just two years after their initial kickstarter campaign.
While the technology is mostly known for its gaming applications, our Future Tech team - which looks at emerging trends and technologies with potential to have a positive impact on learning - has been experimenting with the virtual reality headset over the last year and just finished up an educational prototype for kids ages 7 to 12.
Known as Fishfinder, the prototype helps kids who are being bullied in school, by assessing and training social and emotional skills such as social awareness, responsible decision-making and managing conflict. Just over 70% of young people say they have seen bullying in their schools, according to StopBullying.gov. What’s more, students who are bullied are more likely to miss, skip or drop out of school - directly impacting their academic achievement.
“By helping students feel empowered to respond differently, make better decisions when faced with difficult situations like bullying, we hope that we can not only make it easier for them to show up for school, but ultimately help them perform better as well,” said Jacqueline Krain, Director Strategy and Business Development and business sponsor for the prototype. “There is more and more research showing that emotional well-being has both an intrinsic and instrumental impact on the learner - it only makes sense that we are exploring this area.”
The prototype in action
Fishfinder immerses children in a simulated environment - such as a classroom or hallway - while a narrator explains the situation of the protagonist, Charlie. Through the Oculus Rift, they experience the bullying of the protagonist from a first-person perspective and is coached by a trained parent, teacher or psychologist who is outside of the virtual world, but present in the room. In the world of psychology, this type of intervention is known as “immersion therapy.”
Evangelizing new technologies
This prototype is just one of the many that the Future Tech team has developed over the past two years.
“What’s great about Pearson is that we believe innovation ideas can come from anywhere in the company,” said Denis Hurley, Product Manager for Future Tech. “Our job is to bring together our digital thought leaders, who we call ‘champions,’ and enable them to develop and foster new concepts for the business.”
While many of the team’s projects are experimental, Pearson’s new badging program Acclaim is an example of how a prototype can transform into a full-fledged product and business.