Virtual Reality brings lessons to life in Kent school

Students use VR to learn across the curriculum

Sevenoaks School, a co-educational day and boarding school in Kent, has introduced Virtual Reality (VR) into its classrooms. 

Students are now using VR in a wide range of subjects.  They experience a very different perspective in subjects such as Art and Design and Philosophy with VR headsets. In Art classes, students have been creating three-dimensional paintings and then walking through their artwork.  Pupils have been putting the French philosopher Descartes’ ‘dream argument’ to the test in their Philosophy lessons.

It’s amazing to think that we can test and understand more about these centuries-old theories with the latest modern technology. It has brought a whole new meaning to Philosophy for me!

Graeme Lawrie, Director of Innovation at Sevenoaks School, said: “The educational applications of immersive technology are endless, from teaching everything about Ancient Egypt, to exploring the undersea world in Geography, learning a modern language or walking through the human brain. For students, this is by far the most engaging and enjoyable way to learn.  It is important for them to engage with this technology and understand how it is used as it will form such a big part of the future.’

Lawrie explains the use of VR in the school’s Philosophy curriculum: “In Descartes’ Meditations on First Philosophy, the philosopher put forward one of the most celebrated thought experiments in the history of philosophy. We used the VR kit to great effect in class so the students could experience the alarming possibility that life is only a simulation. The VR headsets provided a way for students to see just how immersive and ‘real’ a simulation could feel. Blurring the boundaries between reality and illusion, the experience engendered a provocative, passionate discussion and helped bring philosophical theory to life”.  

One student in the class commented: “It’s amazing to think that we can test and understand more about these centuries-old theories with the latest modern technology. It has brought a whole new meaning to Philosophy for me!”

Sevenoaks School’s Innovation Team has been closely following the development of immersive technologies and exploring its many potential teaching applications. Currently the school is also piloting the HTC Vive, Samsung Gear and Google Cardboard. The school will begin trialling the PlayStation Morpheus and the Microsoft HoloLens at the end of 2017.

The school is also sharing the technology with primary schools and community groups in the local area as part of its outreach programme.  Lawrie said: “We see VR and Augmented Reality (AR) becoming increasingly present in classrooms and are therefore able to advise local primary schools on the technology to invest in and guide them on how best to use it, as well as providing training.”  

Sevenoaks aims to share its insights, findings and best practice in the use of technology in classrooms with local primary schools. It will be incorporating immersive technology into this initiative and sharing its specialist knowledge so that the local schools can benefit from the latest advancements in IT and learning. In the wider community, Sevenoaks is using VR to help support residents with learning disabilities, who have been attending sessions at the school to experience the VR headsets and interact with art. 

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