Field Test – Clayton Dyer

For my field test I am going to test and analyze how well 360° video and virtual reality could be utilized for educational purposes through the Google Cardboard as it stands today. The Google Cardboard launched in June of 2014 as an inexpensive virtual reality platform that is compatible with both Android and Apple cell phones. There are numerous mobile applications that have been released for the Cardboard, as well as hundreds of 360° videos on YouTube that can be watched using the headset.

The Cardboard was launched as a low-cost way of encouraging interest and development in virtual reality applications. The Samsung GearVR headset, Oculus Right, and HTC Vive have all launched since the Cardboard was released two years ago, but what makes the Cardboard special is it’s affordability. People are able to purchase to Cardboard on Amazon as well as several other websites for $15 or cheaper, a price that pails in comparison to some of the more high-end virtual reality platforms on the market today.

Cardboard

The Cardboard’s affordability is why I think it would make a great teaching tool in K-12 schools today. I think that the Cardboard could be beneficial for education in two main ways. First, 360° videos are able to immerse viewers in a totally different world, giving Cardboard wearers the ability to “visit” foreign countries, dive underwater, see what the surface of Mars looks like, and more. This capability would be a significantly cheaper way teaching kids in schools today about places and topics than going on field trips, and would be a more interesting way to cover material. Taking a virtual reality tour of the Great Barrier Reef sounds much more appealing than reading about it in a textbook.

Second, utilizing the Cardboard in schools today would help Google in the goal it set out to accomplish from the start: to encourage interest and development in virtual reality applications. There is no better population to increase interest in new and developing technologies than the youth. Raising a generation of kids that are interested in and work on improving virtual reality would mean only great things for the young and growing industry.

For my field test I am going to view several videos through the Google Cardboard that could potentially be used for educational purposes. I will then analyze them in several categories such as video quality, how it could be utilized in schools today, and whether or not the videos could be implemented into a curriculum today. My hypothesis for this field test is that free, public 360° videos today are immersive and educational, but are not at the point where they could be used as a legitimate means of teaching today.

1. Clouds Over Sidra

Video Producer: Chris Milk and Gabo Arora

Accessed Through: Vrse (mobile app for Cardboard)

Potential School Topics: History, Social Studies, International Relations

Education Level: High School

Review: This video was awarded the prize in the Interactive category at the 2015 Sheffield Doc/Fest, an international documentary festival held in England. According to the production team’s website, the video “follows Sidra, a twelve year old girl that has fled her home in Syria due to the ongoing crisis and found herself in Jordan’s Za’atari refugee camp. It provides a brief glimpse at the day-to-day life that these refugees endure with narration from Sidra herself. Viewers are taken closer to the situation than a standard screen could ever convey, joining children at school and families as they gather round to eat”. I think that Clouds Over Sidra could be utilized excellently in a high school class, immersing students into daily life in Syria, a country and a topic that is consistently in the news. It is difficult to explain or describe what the situation in Syria is like, and many people are unaware of what life is like in the war-torn country. This video allows viewers to get a first-person look at daily life in Syria, an experience that cannot be matched when it comes to immersion.

2. The Click Effect

ClickEffect_VRSEworks_Sundance2016-1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

https://vrse.com/watch/click-effect/

Video Producer: Annapurna Pictures

Accessed Through: Vrse

Potential School Topics: Science, Biology, Marine Biology

Education Level: Junior High School, High School

Review: The Click Effect follows two marine researchers who freedive deep below the ocean’s waves to capture and observe the “click” communication of dolphins and whales. The video’s quality was stunning and immersive, and the narration in the video provided context what was happening. I think that The Click Effect could be utilized in schools today; the video could be shown in a number of science-related classes to give students an immersive experience of marine life.

3. The Displaced

Video Producer: The New York Times

Accessed Through: Vrse

Potential School Topics: Social Studies, History

Education Level: High School

Review: The Displaced was produced by the New York Times in an effort to shine a light on the 30 million children around the world that have been displaced from their homes as a result of wars. The video follows three children, Oleg, Hana and Chuol, who have been forced from their homes in the Ukraine, Syria, and the Sudan, respectively. According to the filmmakers, the video provides an “uncanny feeling of connection with people whose lives are far from our own”, and is meant to evoke a sense of empathy and community. The Displaced immerses viewers into a world completely different than their own, and tells the stories of three kids who have been uprooted from their homes. I think that this video could be utilized in a number of different high school classes to give students an up close look at the effects of wars across the glove, and to give kids a look at a life that is very different from the one that they know.

4. Scuba Diving the Galapagos Islands in 3D

Video Producer: Nicolas Sylvain

Accessed Through: YouTube

Potential School Topics: Science, Biology, Marine Biology

Education Level: Elementary School, Junior High School, High School

Review: This video provided viewers with an immersive 360° 3D tour of underwater life around the Galapagos Islands. Several different scenes in the video take viewers to different parts of a scuba diving expedition, and numerous different species of aquatic life are seen. Despite the unique nature of the video, there are two main drawbacks to it. First, the quality of the video is not that great, and is slightly blurry when viewed on the Cardboard. Second, there is no narration over the video describing what is happening, just ambient music in the background.

Conclusion

My hypothesis before conducting this test was that although 3D videos viewed through the Google Cardboard would be immersive, they would not be at the points of being a legitimate means of teaching. Looking back on his hypothesis now, I think that I was partially right. As predicted, the 3D videos I tested were definitely immersive, particularly The Click Effect. At this point I would say that teaching strictly through the use of 3D videos is unreasonable – there simply is not enough content out there today. I had trouble finding 3D videos for the Cardboard on YouTube that could be used for teaching purposes (Scuba Diving the Galapagos Islands was the only YouTube video I used for this test). The videos which I found on Vrse, however, could undoubtedly be used for educational purposes. The three Vrse videos I tested and wrote about in this field test I think could be implemented into a curriculum today. I think The Displaced and Clouds Over Sidra could be a very useful tool for high school students; they provide viewers with striking visuals and powerful stories regarding refugees in the world today, and those stories are told through an immersive 3D experience.

I believe the future of 3D videos being used for educational purposes is bright. The videos which I viewed for this field test I think could be implemented into schools today. However, the biggest problem at the moment is strictly the fact that there simply are not enough videos out there. I think that it is only a matter of time before the number of 3D videos compatible with Google Cardboard increases.

The Google Cardboard is an inexpensive way to provide people with an immersive 3D virtual reality experience. Using the Cardboard headset in schools would provide teachers with a unique tool to conduct lessons and students with a taste of virtual reality technology. Utilizing the Cardboard for educational purposes could also foster a generation of students that are interested in virtual reality technology. I think that it is only a matter of time before the number of educational 3D virtual reality videos increases, and before this technology will be implemented into the education system.