How to get teachers comfortable with VR technology

Encourage teachers to connect with instructional technology teams, participate in seminars and create PLCs
By: | May 13, 2020
Bradley County Schools in Tennessee

While virtual reality takes students (and teachers) to many places around the world they would otherwise never go, getting teachers comfortable with the technology can take time. Ensure educators understand how virtual field trips can benefit students. “These experiences are meant to enhance learning and to give students a different perspective than what they can see in an image or a video,” says Scott Webb, instructional technology coordinator of Bradley County Schools in Tennessee, which is in its first year of deployment.

At Polk County Public Schools in Florida, teachers began individually testing virtual reality platforms in 2016. Educators either reach out to the instructional technology team for training or participate in a monthly seminar that covers a different topic every session.

“I ‘drop’ teachers in a particular area and let them explore the environment,” says Teacher Engagement Leader Jessica Solano, who leads these monthly sessions.

Since many teachers struggle with connecting their content to other disciplines, Solano brings educators to places such as (a virtual) Times Square to discuss how students learn about landmarks in social studies and will use inquiry-based questions to connect math concepts. “On many of the buildings in Times Square, the windows are set up on equal rows, so I ask, ‘What do you notice?’ to get them talking,” says Solano. “I will then develop a question such as ‘I wonder how many people are on this street. How long does it take for the traffic lights to switch?’ ”

Solano adds, “it’s important to be immersed in a situation instead of me saying what we’re going to do in the virtual reality field trip,” says Solano. “Allow teachers to use it and pull out information from their experiences. It’s more concrete and relatable that way.”

This summer, Library Media Specialist Michelle Davis of Magnolia School in Alabama tested recently purchased VR goggles before showing educators individually how to use them during regular school days for two hours.

Teachers participated during daily planning—periods when all students are in physical education, allowing these teachers to collaborate. “This got them motivated to use virtual reality field trips, and then they came into the library with their classes and I helped teachers through their first soiree into it,” says Davis.

“For extended training,” adds Principal P.J. Sute, “I will get four or five subs to come in who will rotate among the grade levels. We came up with a schedule so the teachers can plan together and monitor classes for an extra hour.”

Read the other stories in DA’s series on VR field trips:

3 best practices for taking students on virtual field trips

Where to find the right network support

Can virtual reality experiences be accomplished remotely?

31 apps and websites—some of them free—for virtual field trips


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