3 Ideas for Using Virtual Reality with Place Based Ed


Place-Based Ed, an approach to education that takes advantage of geography to make learning authentic, meaningful and engaging for learners, can happen almost anywhere.
With the help of virtual reality (VR), learning through places can extend beyond when students are outdoors or visiting a particular location.
For example, President Obama recently visited Yosemite National Park via virtual reality and in-person, illustrating the importance of learning from, and in, the world around us.
VR is also important in creating an equitable opportunity for all students to experience different places. Financial, physical and geographical barriers can limit students from being able to see different parts of the world, their state or even their own community.

3 Ideas of how to use VR with PlaceBasedEd

1. Use of VR can happen BEFORE or AFTER a place-based experience.
Tools like ThingLink allows students to learn about a place before they visit it and then reflect on the experience afterwards by creating ThingLink interactive VR experiences. Students can tag information (videos, questions, pictures, etc.) to the scene so that they can revisit that place at a later date.

Christi Collins ThingLink on Exploring Pearl Harbor

Mona Voelkel’s ThingLink on Abaiang Atoll:

2. VR can be used for places that aren’t just outdoors.
Museums, restaurants and businesses count, too! The Google Arts and Culture site has great VR experiences for students spanning different locations across the globe. Before visiting a local museum, students could virtually visit The Metropolitan Museum of Art and then compare the two. Students can use Airpano to learn about typical architecture you might find in another place and then investigate buildings and structures in their local community.
3. Using VR can help students achieve deeper learning outcomes.

Critical thinking and problem solving are key deeper learning outcomes. If students are working on a problem, say how to help reduce erosion in one of our National Parks, students might need to virtually visit and see that place in order to find, evaluate and synthesize information to construct an argument on why their solution is best. Designing solution requires that students have evidence to support their claim and VR experiences can help if/when a student cannot revisit a location.

Even if you don’t use VR, a simple photo can lead to some great #PlaceBasedEd. Websites like National Geographic Education post fascinating photos that could spark great conversations about place. Apps like New York Hall of Science Noticing Tools: Playground Physics allow students to capture photos or video of playground activities (such as swinging) so they can then measure the angles and force of motion.

Speaking of angles, see how Regent University student Anicca took the dab to a whole different level–a mathematical #PlaceBasedEd one.

This blog is part of our “Place-Based Education” blog series. To learn more and contribute a guest post for the series, check out the PBE campaign page. Join in the conversation on social media using #PlaceBasedEd. For more on Place-Based Education see:

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Emily Liebtag

Emily Liebtag, Ed.D., is Education Reimagined's Senior Partner for Systems Transformation. Formerly, Emily served as the Vice President of Advocacy at Getting Smart.

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Dr. Rebecca Meeder

Great ideas! I plan to share these with the Educational Technology class I teach next month.

Emily Liebtag

Glad you found it helpful, Dr. Meeder!

Mona Voelkel

Love your article about the role of VR in place-based education! Thanks for including my VR project! Looking forward to more articles on this subject!

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