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Low-cost virtual reality can put teachers into a class of their own

Published:24 April 2019

The latest in the series of popular 'Weaving Technology into the Fabric of the Classroom' workshops will focus on 360-degree video and budget VR options.

Teachers don’t need huge budgets to enhance students’ learning through virtual reality and augmented reality experiences.

The latest in the series of popular Weaving Technology into the Fabric of the Classroom workshops will focus on 360-degree video and budget VR options.

That’s according to a CQUniversity academic and Queensland Digital Champion, Associate Professor Michael Cowling, who will lead a team of specialist academics and expert teachers to deliver the workshop at CQUniversity Noosa campus, on Tuesday 7 May.

Registrations for the Noosa workshop are open until 1 May via http://weaving.tech .

“Mixed reality technologies, including virtual reality and augmented reality, can enable teachers to create a new blended reality that gives students a seamless digital experience,” Dr Cowling says.

“Our hands-on workshop will focus on demonstrations of how to ensure effective learning, or pedagogy before technology, rather than the other way around.”

Originally funded by a grant from Google a few years ago, the ‘Weaving Technology into the Fabric of the Classroom’ series has already reached over 150 teachers at six locations across Queensland, from the Gold Coast to Mackay.

Dr Cowling says it’s important to prevent students feeling stuck on the outside of mixed reality simulations.

In other words, they won’t get as much benefit if they are just watching someone else have a single-user experience and not being fully immersed in it.

“The issue with most mixed reality simulations is that the user is separated from the spectators, wearing the mixed reality hardware and waving their arms about whilst everyone else in the room looks on with confused looks on their faces,” Dr Cowling says.

“In this workshop, we are looking to provide a seamless integration between users and spectators in the mixed reality experience.

"The workshops came out of the clear emerging need for all facets of the education sector to understand how best to weave technology into their classroom practice.”

Dr Cowling is passionate about helping teachers innovate with technology in their classrooms.

He founded The CREATE Lab at CQUniversity, which focuses on collaborative research and engagement around technology and education.

"The lab aims to develop the digital competency of students using augmented and virtual reality as well as robotic teaching assistive technology," Dr Cowling says.

Despite his technology background and love of computers, Dr Cowling says that his experience adding technology to the classroom in the last few years has shown him that technology is not the be all and end all when it comes to learning.

"My students love using technology, but even in my classes I've realised that technology for technology's sake is a waste of time," Dr Cowling said.

"The technology we introduce must serve a purpose and that purpose must be to enhance learning through improving pedagogy."

CQUniversity academics supporting the Noosa workshop include Jim Picton, Dr Steven Boyd, Dr Robert Vanderburg and Darryl Clare OAM.