Design Interactive Place-Based Learning with Virtual Reality

By Susan Oxnevad
Virtual Reality (VR) and 360 image exploration provide educators with opportunities to embrace Placed-Based Education by extending the walls of the classroom to learn in virtual environments near and far.
The availability of inexpensive VR headsets, 360 cameras and a variety of apps to create 360 photos has brought VR closer to the mainstream in education this year. This increased access to VR resources provides educators with a natural fit for learning through Place-Based Education.

Tell Powerful Stories of Local Significance

At the most basic level, one way to embrace ‘Genius Loci’, the spirit of a place, is to provide students with opportunities to tell digital stories about local areas of interest powered by ThingLink’s interactive 360 image editor. The tool provides a seamless way for students to capture learning on the go through mobile devices, and it offers a platform for constructing deep digital stories.
On the field trip site, students become actively engaged as they use mobile devices to document learning through photos, text, video and audio recordings and unfold the stories around them. This active engagement helps student become stakeholders in their own learning and encourages them to become empowered by the learning opportunities at hand.

Explore this Field Trip to Plainsboro Preserve by Dan Gallagher

Engage Students in Higher Order Thinking

Back in the classroom, students can connect to wireless and work collaboratively to build deeper Place-Based stories by constructing knowledge through research. In this student-centered learning environment, natural opportunities to foster creativity and encourage higher order thinking skills present themselves as students weave their VR stories together. Teachers serving as the facilitator, or guide on the side, will find many teachable moments and opportunities to personalizing the learning to ensure success for all students.

Collect Data for Assessment

When designing Place-Based learning experiences around VR and 360 images, it’s important to build in data collection and assessment to evaluate the effectiveness of the lessons and to monitor student progress and growth. ThingLink provides educators with the opportunity to collect data through the use of a simple, embedded Google Form. Students can complete the form easily right within the lesson, and the data is displayed in a spreadsheet in the teacher’s Google Drive. This flexible form can be used in a variety of ways for assessment. Here are a few ideas.

  • Use a form to pre-assess knowledge and skills prior to instruction at the start of the VR learning experience.
  • Create a quick exit ticket for use in personalizing the learning for individual students.
  • Use a form to collect writing that is aligned to standards or targeted to meet instructional goals.

Explore the Coral Reef Ecosystem with Google Forms

Extend the Learning Across the Globe

Virtual Reality provides students with opportunities to explore places they could only imagine, opening the doors to embrace learning through an exciting Place-Based curriculum. Educators can use ThingLink’s 360 media editor to design interactive learning experiences through this world lens that help students engage in relevant learning, share their voices, and tell deep digital stories about their world.

Explore World Map of Burial Rituals Across Cultures by Dr. Chris Boyd
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:

Susan Oxnevad is a former classroom teacher and instructional technology coach, and is currently Director of Education at ThingLink. Follow her on Twitter: @soxnevad

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