Using ClassVR to Boost Engagement at Crowlands Primary School
“We gave the children an experience of swimming with sharks or diving underwater around Amedee Island as a stimulus for quick writing activities to see the impact it would have. The greater submersion in the experience allowed them to describe the settings in much greater detail as most would not have been to those environments before and therefore would not have that experience to draw from.”
Computing Coordinator (UK)
Crowlands is a larger-than-average sized primary school which serves the London Borough of Havering. It became a ClassVR Pioneer school back in March and since then has invested in three more class sets to boost engagement across the school.
FIRST VIRTUAL TRIP
Before the first box of headsets was introduced, both staff and students were excited but unsure of what to expect. With just eight headsets for the class, there was plenty of sharing to be done. However, the children took this in their stride. It didn’t feel like just eight children were engaged in the session. They instantly started talking to each other about what they had seen to involve everyone at their table. Through language they were sharing their experiences, creating a fantastic buzz in the classroom.
IMPROVING QUALITY OF WRITING
After their introduction to the technology, Anthony Isaac, Crowlands’ Computing Coordinator, was eager for more:
Students worked in pairs and were told to write down notes as they looked around their virtual setting. I encouraged them to jot down anything they could see, collecting adjectives they could use to describe the scene but also to be creative when using this to help imagine what their other senses would be able to detect. What might they be able to hear, smell, taste or touch if they were there? Finally, they were given just 20 minutes to describe a scene, imagining they were scuba diving.
The kids responded incredibly well to the technology, navigating the headsets with ease and, most importantly for this activity, were really excited to write after their experience. Even though they could just see the VR world, the submersion in the setting kick-started their creativity as they thought of other details using other senses. The total plunge into this new environment also gave them the ability to see small details and create better description and imagery. Their response was extremely enthusiastic, writing with an increased concentration because of how engaged they were in the stimulus.
Examples of Students' Writing
As we manoeuvred through the blue oceans, I took a moment to take time to take in the amazing views! “One. Two. Three,” I was in!
As I waved goodbye to our tour leader, Rico, I plunged in. I was speechless (mainly due to the fact that I had a breathing mask on my face). My eyes searched the tropical ocean and they got caught on a large fish, which was as stripy as a zebra. Mini clown-fish were swimming as fast as Ferraris as they were chased by their predators. Whales were humming small melodies as I stroked a dolphin. Much to my surprise, it softly swam with me holding on to it and I had a chance to see the brilliant view.
Yet again, my eyes were mesmerised by the tropical neon coral, swishing along with the current. I got out my Go-Pro and began to film my beautiful surroundings. A large multi-coloured fish approached me so a touched its rainbow scales. It was truly magical and I felt privileged to be there.
As the beautiful coral lay peacefully on top of the sandy floor, colourful fish circled me like hurricane. Waves were created; they swept me off of the blanket and I felt like I was flying. Zebras were floating, or so I thought, with black and white stripes stretched across the skin of the locals. I was extremely tempted to clutch onto one of the playful dolphins’ fins and swim away into heaven; they kept on bouncing off of the Caribbean Island’s stunning topaz water like a pogo stick.
Suddenly, all happiness was blocked as a shark – with a toothy sneer- rapidly appeared from a dull cave on the seas bottom. Magically, no fish were in sight; the dolphins had gone; not even the seaweed weed could be seen…the reef shark had scared EVERYONE.
Today was the first time I have ever scuba dived; I was nervous. As I plunged into oblivion, my eyes swept from side to side. The pungent smell of salty water shot up my nose. The sound of crashing waves engulfed the noise of my flapping flippers. Suddenly, a swarm of amazing fish swallowed me and the noise became like a volcano erupting.
The sun-light illuminated the water surface, making the fish who swam into it glisten like cerulean green and blue gems.
There I was, in a charming, magical world of my own, surrounded by a dazzling school of a variety of fish. They swam in perplexing ways, round and round verdant seaweed, which swayed swiftly like beautiful flowers in the breeze. The sweltering sun shone through the sapphire waves on the congested ocean. The waves moved viciously like white galloping horses. As the shimmering light streamed the sparkling coral as it swayed, the glistening fish drifted lightly in the tepid, aqua-blue water. Golden, sparkling was outstandingly glamorous under water, as the bubbles, made by the fish, popped lightly on the floor.
Not only was there an echoing popping sound, there was an audible, mournful moan in the distance; a gradient blue object. A whale. Rapidly, I swam away, hoping it didn’t eat me. Gradually the moan ceased. Between the luscious coral, I could now hear the deafening sound of flapping by a group of rainbow fish. Crystal clear bubbles floated around a herd of zebra- like creatures.
EMBEDDING ACROSS THE CURRICULUM
Since then, staff have been really excited about using ClassVR across the curriculum. I have seen VR and AR lessons across a number of year groups and subjects:
YEAR 3 have used VR to travel back in time for their history topics, getting a different experience of the Stone Age and Ancient Egypt;
YEAR 5 have used the headsets in science to gain a better understanding of our solar system, looking at how the moon rotates around the sun as well as a going on a trip to the Milky Way.
YEAR 6 have used augmented reality to get a closer look at dinosaurs for their science topic;
Not only does the technology immerse children in the topic, getting them to wonder, ask questions and become excited to learn more about it, from what we’ve seen at Crowlands, it manages to ignite a spark in those children who ordinarily wouldn’t get excited about that particular topic or subject.
The school has already seen a huge positive impact of ClassVR and staff are using it creatively in a variety of subjects to boost engagement, getting the children to drive the learning forward. It is exciting to think where this will take them next and I’m sure the children can’t wait to find out where their next virtual school trip will take place.