VR in Special Ed

This semester I have been tasked with my first ever blog. I have several classes so I figured I’d just write about my experience so far in my first semester of grad school. I was trying to think of something interesting to write about, and then a couple days ago while I was looking into a potential research topic I stumbled onto an advertisement for virtual reality.

This caught my attention and got me thinking about how VR could be used in the classrooms, and more importantly used with kids that have learning disabilities. I dug a little deeper and found an article called “Real Uses of Virtual Reality in Education: How Schools are Using VR”. The article goes into how it’s hard to incorporate VR in schools due to cost, and that the cheaper sets don’t really give the same experience.

I feel like the cheap, cardboard Google VR would be a great idea to bring to classes, especially younger kids, who could decorate their own sets and make it their own. They’re cheap enough to replace if (let’s face it- when) they get broken, and is something the students will definitely love to experience regardless of the quality.

Other uses the article talks about include teaching things such as architect, training med students in surgery, and offering virtual tours for students looking to apply or transfer to another school. While this is cool and interesting, it’s not really what I was looking for. I wanted to find some examples of VR being used in a special ed setting.

Looking a little deeper I found another article titled “How Virtual Reality can be used to Support Children with Special Educational Needs”. This article talks about a single school in London that utilizes VR in a unique way for their special ed students. They describe the joy VR brings the students when they go swimming with sharks, or going to the pyramids. These students are contained to a relatively small world, so being able to have such an experience is special. I would love for school to incorporate “class trips” into their program. When the gen ed students go to visit the museum and the special ed students can’t, let them throw on the head set and see that same museum. This way when the kids come back together the special ed students can feel more included.

The school in London also has a feature where the teacher can see what the student is seeing, and maybe even use another headset and go into the VR world with their students. This is a great idea and definitely a great visual tool to have to help students better understand the material and make them more “active” learners. Another use not listed in the article that I think would be very effective would be to use VR as a positive reinforcement. Give the students an assignment or a task and if they complete said task, they can use the VR headset to go where ever they like. If a student loves space, they can go visit Mars; if a student loves dinosaurs, they can up close and personal with them. The uses and potential for VR in the classroom has no bounds, and I can’t wait for the day that it is regularly used in schools.

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