Get Started with Virtual Reality

Posted by Jaime DonallyO

November 3, 2017

Jumping into the world of Virtual Reality (VR) begins with a basic understanding of what it is. To start, imagine swimming around the ocean, admiring colorful fish, only to turn around to find yourself face-to-face with a shark…


Now imagine students having this same experience while standing in your classroom.

Virtual reality provides teachers the ability to provide an immersive experience where learners can feel as if they are living the content that you are teaching.  THAT is student engagement.


While it’s important to understanding that the difference between reality and virtual reality can be a fine line, particularly for younger students to understand, it is a powerful tool to bring intense learning experiences into the classroom.


To help you get started with simple ways to use virtual reality with students, we’ve gathered a list of popular virtual reality tools, apps, and resources together in one place.


Ready to see what’s possible? Read on!







Nearpod is a mobile learning platform that allows teachers to create and sharing engaging, interactive lessons with their class and collect real time feedback from students. With Nearpod, 360 photos can easily be added into lessons with the click of a button—allowing students to be immersed into the learning content.


A few of our favorite locations to explore within Nearpod include the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Anemone Reef, Flaming Crown at Dusk in Melbourne Australia, and Santorini Greece. Interested in trying it yourself? Check out this sample lesson for a firsthand look.

Related resource: Nearpod Training







Watching videos will never be the same! YouTube™ now offers a variety of virtual reality experiences using 360 videos—see that directional arrow in the upper right corner of the above screen capture? It can be used to change the viewers’ perspective, and, in the sample shown, walk with a Titanosaur dinosaur.

With as many as 360 videos uploaded daily, it can be difficult to sort which are appropriate for classrooms.


For a few of our favorites, check out this playlist of 50+ videos to bring an immersive learning experience into your lessons. Included are swimming with sharksflying in a fighter jet, and, of course, walking with dinosaurs.

Related resource: YouTube™ for Educators



Google Spotlight Stories™   




The power of a good story knows no age limit. With virtual reality, learners become a part of the story with pieces moving all around them. If that’s not enough, imagine a story that waits for your attention before continuing the plot—pretty cool, right? Google Spotlight Stories brings the art of storytelling to the next level by placing the ‘reader’ in the center of the action.


A word of caution that the app requires a newer device because of the graphics. There are some stories available on YouTube™, though they don’t include the interaction—one such video is Special Delivery, which is shown above.  It’s also important to watch these stories before adding them to your lesson to find the age appropriate experience for your students.



Discovery VR® 




Discover VR® is by the same company as the well-known Discovery Channel®. In fact, many of the 360 videos available through Discovery VR® are tied to their popular television shows.  Each ‘clip’ is entertaining and sure to capture learners’ attention.


One of the amazing stories available is Lion Whisperer, which follows one individual’s interactions with a pack of lions. The story pulls you in as it is both emotionally moving and somewhat frightening to realize that something awful could happen at any moment.


If you’re interested in trying Discovery VR® in your classroom, be sure to plan ahead. The amount of bandwidth to run these videos may limit how many devices can be used at a time, and is also blocked by some filters.



Public Speaking VR/VirtualSpeech Google Cardboard™   




All students need to practice public speaking with an audience and this app gives that audience at any time of the day.  The realistic environment, sound effects, staring faces, and timer make the VirtualSpeech Google Cardboard™ app (also known as Public Speaking VR) a great choice for practicing speeches, interviews or important presentations.


There are a few different environments to choose from, such as a job interview room, an auditorium, and the meeting room shown above. Each to help you practice public speaking events by providing realistic environments to practice with.

Related resource: How Do I Become a Better Public-Speaker?



Google Street View™   




Moving beyond experience and into student creation is the next step in using virtual reality in the classroom. Don’t get intimidated just yet, though!


Google Street View™ not only allows you to experience Google Maps™ in 3D, but also upload 360 photos.  If you have a 360 camera available, great. If not, this app allows your device’s camera to stitch together individual photos to make your own 360 view.  It’s that easy!

As a side note, keep in mind that once an image is published, others can see your experience using the Google Street View™ app, so don’t post any private or sensitive information.

Related resource: Students as Digital Creators







Claiming to be the “world’s most hassle-free 360 VR publishing and panoramic tours authoring platform,”Roundme® allows users to upload 360 images and adding text. You can also connect multiple images together to give the viewer the experience of moving from place to place, create a virtual tour experience.


In the classroom, students could be provided an image and then be responsible for accurately labeling items shown in the photo, or could create their own photos to document learning from their personal perspective.







An incredibly easy way to build your own virtual reality world is now possible through CoSpaces®.  Learners young and old can click, drag and drop different 3D objects into their virtual world inside of, and then share what they’ve created.


Just a few project ideas include building a world to describe a scene from a book, re-creating a moment in history, or even working with different geometric shapes to create their own new 3D objects.

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