Building Equity and Engagement with Nearpod VR
Virtual Reality is one of my favorite Nearpod features. It’s exciting, engaging, and brings a real-world aspect to lessons that wouldn’t be possible otherwise. Students all come from different backgrounds and enter school with different life experiences, but VR lessons can fill in those gaps and provide students with meaningful experiences.
Here are 3 ways to you can use Nearpod VR to build equity and engage your students:
Build Background Knowledge
I teach kindergarten in sunny, warm Florida, so my students have lots of experience with warm weather and sunny beaches. However, every Fall when we learn about the changing seasons, my students usually have no idea what this looks like. This is the perfect opportunity to introduce Nearpod VR lessons so that all my students can have this experience. For example, when we read books about picking apples, I’ll first do a Nearpod VR lesson using a 360 photo from an apple orchard so they can really see and feel what picking apples would be like. Or, when we study leaves changing in science, I’ll take them on a virtual field trip to a New England forest where they can actually see the different colored leaves falling from the trees.
The VR States and Territories lessons are also fantastic ways to build background knowledge, especially when these places are settings of books you’re reading. For example, if you’re reading a book set in Alaska, but you teach in Oklahoma, the “Getting to Know Alaska” lesson would be the perfect way to give students a basic understanding of what it’s like there. These lessons also focus on the history of these locations and the features that make them unique, so all students can gain a deeper understanding without ever having to leave the classroom.
Connect Students to the Real World
In the classroom, students are most engaged when lessons connect to their own lives or the real world. Teaching social skills is a huge passion of mine, and this is the perfect place to incorporate real-world situations. If you’re teaching your students about self-assertion, why not immerse them in a real-life environment with VR to help them actually practice this skill? In these Nearpod Life Skills lessons, students are analyzing their VR experience and looking at the world through a critical lens by completing the corresponding graphic organizers, Collaborate discussions, and polls. This way, when students do encounter a situation where they need to use that skill, they will have a tangible experience to draw upon.
For those teaching upper grades, the VR College Tour lessons are also fantastic and include universities from not just the United States, but the world! Instead of just telling students about preparing for the next step, show them! These campus tours show students different areas of the university and foster discussions about what features they like and if they’d like to attend school there. For a student like me who attended college out-of-state-, this would have been incredibly helpful when I was applying and visiting with my parents.
They’re Just Plain Fun!
Engagement is key in the classroom. You could have the most worthwhile content, but if your students aren’t engaged, they’ll never know it. Sometimes our “usual” just gets a little stale for students. But in the several times, I’ve done VR lessons with my class, I have never once heard a “Do we have to?” or a “This is boring”. They are all smiles and 100% excited to be learning.
While some of my VR lessons are self-made, the new Nearpod VR Explorations lessons are ready-to-go and beautifully connect your content standards to virtual reality. For example, in the lesson below, students are using what they know about patterns to analyze the Egyptian pyramids and see where a pattern may have been used.
The best part of these Nearpod VR Explorations lessons is that they are all researched based and created with best practices in mind to ensure that they are just as educational as they are engaging.
I hope you and your students enjoy exploring the world with VR! There are plenty of lessons ready to go in the Nearpod library and plenty more 360 Cities photos for you to use to create your own. Happy Exploring!
Kali is a tech-savvy elementary teacher whose passion for all things STEM fuels her innovation in the classroom and inspires other teachers to begin their own #edtech adventures.