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Guest Blog: Becoming a Viking Warrior with Virtual Reality

The Introduction of ClassVR

Back in 2019, in my third year working at The ESMS Junior School, I was delighted to be asked by Simon Luxford-Moore, our Head of eLearning, to trial the use of a technology new to the school with my class. That technology turned out to be the ClassVR! After an initial tinker and play myself, we introduced the devices to my Primary 6 class (10-year-old children). They were first given an opportunity to play and explore with the devices – becoming familiar with how to control them. The topic in my class at the time was the ‘Human Body’, and so following a quick trip inside an eyeball (!) and to the heart, the children were both amazed and armed with the necessary skills to navigate using the headsets.

This initial play and exploration session meant that when I next planned to use the headsets, to enhance teaching a lesson on the Jacobite rebellion, the children were able to be immersed in the experience rather than focused on the technology. This cohort of children were to again utilise the ClassVR headsets to augment their learning. This time to enter a world they had created using CoSpaces. Their created realms were themed on our class novel ‘Holes’ by Louis Sachar. Their delight and amusement at viewing in first person their own and their peers’ imaginative work has stuck with me since then!

The Current Topic: Vikings at Lindisfarne

Fast forward to the present date and I now find myself having a thoroughly enjoyable time teaching a Primary 4 class (eight-year-old children). Our current focus is the Vikings, and this led me to consider how I could utilise ClassVR to support my children in achieving the target and success criteria of an upcoming writing lesson. In the lesson the children were due to write a Viking diary entry from the perspective of a warrior raiding the island of Lindisfarne.  

The Adventure: Stepping into the Shoes of a Viking Warrior

At the beginning of the lesson the children were focused on the target of gaining an understanding and experience of what it must have been like to be a Viking raiding the island. I led the children through a guided tour of a range of photographs taken at Lindisfarne that they ‘stepped inside’ using the ClassVR headsets. This included such highlights as the impressive, ruined priory, stone floored larder, and world-famous ancient brewery. At each stage on the journey the children were engaged with discussion questions with their peers, where I used and off-on again procedure with the headsets. This opportunity allowed them to discuss what they would have thought and felt during the raid and to develop descriptive vocabulary that they could use in their writing. 

To round off their adventure I asked the children if they would like to return to the beach from the beginning of our tour, but this time to get an experience of what it might have looked like during the Viking raid! Following a quick distribution of the ClassVR hand controllers the children were then swept into an Avantis World explorable scene where they would find a Viking longship beached at Lindisfarne with a burning monastery in the distance. The children excitably explored the beach, moving and discovering the landscape around them.

The Impact: Inspired & Descriptive Writing

Following this lesson, the children were tasked with planning independently and then writing their diary entry. I was delighted to see their enthusiasm and focus for the task enriched by their experience using virtual reality. On review of their finished work, I was struck by the depth and detail of content and rich use of vocabulary for their character’s thoughts and feelings. The children were seen to recall and deploy specific topic vocabulary for locations and events taught in the lesson. It was clear to see from the finished work that the children had been thoroughly inspired by their virtual adventure at Lindisfarne ‘stepping into the shoes’ of a Viking warrior.

The Way Forward: Exploring Religious Buildings

My class won’t have long to wait for their next opportunity to enhance their learning using VR! Coming up I will be teaching a lesson on Judaism where the children will visit two different synagogues – one a little closer to home in Chatham, England and the other in Hong Kong. This experience will allow them to observe first-hand similarities and differences between the religious buildings.

The Future: More ClassVR!

With this experience behind them this current group of children will be well equipped to engage with further VR opportunities in the future. They are developing their understanding that VR provides a useful means of enriching their learning without it being the focus. In the coming months and years ahead, I plan to continue working with colleagues to further develop our use of ClassVR resources to enrich the delivery of our curriculum across all subjects.

About The Author:

Jamie Steer is a Primary School Class Teacher working at the ESMS Junior School in Edinburgh, Scotland where he is the ‘Digital Learning Champion’ for the Primary 4 Year Group of over 120 children. Jamie has had a longstanding passion for educational technology and as part of his Bachelor of Education degree at The University of Edinburgh he completed a final year research project focussing on utilising EdTech to support learners with additional support needs in accessing the Language curriculum. Prior to assuming his teaching role at ESMS, Jamie worked at Donibristle Primary School in Fife. At Donibristle, he performed the role of ICT Curriculum Leader and was invited to attend the Fife Council ICT Strategy Group. You can follow Jamie via his Twitter account @SteeringEdTech.

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