From immersive game play to real-time feedback, educational technology has taken a permanent seat at the table of expanding classroom engagement. During the Digital Futures Institute’s new Tech Playground series, educators and students have the opportunity to embrace curiosity, experimentation and exploration through hands-on play with emerging technology. Here’s what you may have missed from the first installment of the series, which focused on immersive technologies like augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) applications.

Minh Le, DFI Installment lead and Principal Instructional Designer, instructed a participant how to use the VR headset. (Photo courtesy of DFI)

Under the guidance of Installment lead and Principal Instructional Designer Minh Le, the workshop offered more than 20 participants a diverse menu of reality applications that showcased the potential of immersive technology for classroom use, more specifically for STEAM education. TC student Dasha Todua, a participant in the Tech Playground, expressed how the AR/VR installment is what drew them to the series with interest in the intersection of cognitive science and educational technology.

Richard Jochum, Associate Professor of Art & Education, tried out VR applications. (Photo: DFI) 

To dive into a virtual scene, participants were each given an Oculus Quest 2 VR headset with controllers, and the Play Menu to playfully explore the curated applications collection. The workshop modeled the benefits of gamification, for instance, “single player” versus “team” and “free play” versus “challenge mode” in creating an engaging and personalized learning experience, which could later be adapted by participants for use within their own classes. Examples included opportunities that gamified learning surrounding STEAM elements, such as Geogebra 3D Calculator, and Mission to Mars. Participants had independence to choose which AR/VR applications to explore by browsing menu options, as well as whether they wanted to explore it independently or with a team.

Another experience offered was a Virtual Reality Chemistry lab, developed by Elliot Hu-Au, a doctoral student in TC’s Instructional Technology. The virtual reality lab allows students to safely experiment with simulated chemicals and materials found in a standard classroom lab. “The VR Chem Lab makes chemistry more accessible and hands-on for students,” said Zoey Tong, a Tech Playground participant, “I wish I had the VR chem lab in middle school. It was fun to use VR in this way.”

A group of TC faculty discussed the potentials of AR/VR applications for teaching and learning at the workshop. (Photo: DFI) 

After offering participants this freedom to play with technology, leaders hope that guests will recreate this engagement in classrooms, and bring educational technology to the intersection of learning and enjoyment.

“Immersive technology potentially opens up endless possibilities for learning that none of us could have ever imagined,“ explains Le, who works closely with colleagues at DFI to create hands-on experiences like the Tech Playground for the TC and broader community. “With enormous investment from big tech companies, it won’t take long until this technology becomes ubiquitous and integrates into many aspects of our life. There is no better time than now to familiarize ourselves with this technology, not only for our own benefits, but also for our students.”

The next series installment of the Tech Playground will focus on creating your own media and will take place on November 2, 2022. Registration is open now.