Next Generation Science Standards, STEAM, and the Use of Virtual Reality (VR)
Posted: Thursday, August 18th, 2016
by Anne Mangahas. Ed.D.
STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) with its interdisciplinary approach, is much like the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) in building a cohesive understanding of the process of science. Studies show that the Arts use right brain thinking to foster creativity, a quality essential to innovation and problem solving. This new paradigm within STEAM offers students the best opportunities in developing the skills necessary to meet the challenges of the 21st century. Virtual Reality Technology has been shown to enhance student comprehension of complex topics and is beneficial for children with variances in cognitive ability. The interaction involved in virtual reality engages learners by creating a holistic medium that incorporates kinesthetic, cognitive, and affective domains. This experience-heavy quality of VR environments is crucial to the learning process as it provides vibrant contexts.
Virtual Reality and Cognitive Perception
Students were introduced to human perception through a virtual reality exercise showing the relationship between the brain’s natural ability of discerning reality contrasted with virtual reality’s capacity of manipulating perception. The project took place in a 10th grade high school Biology class over the course of a week.
Immersive Experiences through VR. Through a tactile-kinesthetic activity, a VR headset was provided so students could experience firsthand the effects of virtual reality in wielding a simulated environment. The immersive simulation was of a virtual reality roller coaster ride. Students were asked to document their experiences using journaling during their immersion. The leading questions of the task included: (a) How did the simulation feel in comparison to a real life roller coaster? (b) What differences, if any, were present between the immersive experience and real life?
Student responses ranged from reports of vertigo, to noting the cartoon-like graphics, as diminishing the reality of the virtual world. Students overall felt that the virtual environment did a “pretty good” job at simulating a “real” three-dimensional experience.
Students were then given the opportunity to create their own immersive experiences with the use of 360° video stitching apps that worked in conjunction with their mobile devices to be viewed through a virtual reality headset. A rubric was provided detailing the specifications of the project which were aligned with 21st century learning standards. Student work was graded for novelty, demonstration of the understanding of human perception, artistic composition, reflection of the technological use of VR with relation to human wellness, and quality student critiques serving to encourage collaboration and feedback. Students were also asked to write reflection papers which included an explanation of their understanding of how human perception was affected by virtual reality.
The students were obviously very excited in preparing their projects. Many of the self-identified “gamers” began to understand the connections between the world of their video games and its relevance to an educational context. Students displayed real ingenuity building their own camera rigs showing a high level of engineering prowess. Some of the camera builds were attached to students’ pets, inanimate objects, or even themselves, using their own creatively inspired designs. There’s nothing that brings more joy to a teacher than seeing students having fun whilst learning science. Students recorded first-person perspectives as animals, or through the eyes of a younger sibling as they slid down a precarious slide, to a walk through one’s neighborhood, or whilst relaxing near a pond on the observation deck.
Ultimately, the goal of STEAM is to provide an opportunity for the disciplines of science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics to coincide and interact in such a way as to generate a more holistic understanding of the way the world works. This exercise in understanding cognition in conjunction with the technological and creative use of smart devices and apps, provided an effective way to approach a complex topic like neuroscience and the issues that modern technologies raise with regard to the molding of human perception. As a whole, it caused students to think outside the box and to employ novel techniques that served to foster greater student enthusiasm in the methods of scientific inquiry.
Connecting to the Next Generation Science Standards
The chart below makes one set of connections between the instruction outlined in this article and the NGSS. Other valid connections are likely; however, space restrictions prevent from listing all possibilities. The materials, lessons, and activities outlined in the article are just one step toward reaching the performance expectations listed below.
HS-LS1-2. Develop and use a model to illustrate the hierarchical organization of interacting systems that provide specific functions within multicellular organisms. [Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on functions at the organism system level such as nutrient uptake, water delivery, and organism movement in response to neural stimuli. An example of an interacting system could be an artery depending on the proper function of elastic tissue and smooth muscle to regulate and deliver the proper amount of blood within the circulatory system.] [Assessment Boundary: Assessment does not include interactions and functions at the molecular or chemical reaction level.]
Virtual Reality, Immersive Experiences and Cognitive Perception Project Rubric
Dewey, J. (1916) Democracy and Education. New York: Macmillon.
Freina, L., & Ott, M. (2015). A literature review on immersive virtual reality in education: State of the art and perspectives, The 11th International Scientific Conference eLearning and Software for Education Bucharest, April 23-24, 2015.
Harrow, A.A (1972) Taxonomy of the Psychomotor Domain. New York: David McKay.
Papert, S. (1980). Mindstorms. New York: Basic Books.
Shim, K.C., Park, J.S., Kim H.S., Kim, J.H., Park, Y.C., Ryu, H.I. (2003). Application of virtual reality technology in biology education. Journal of Biological Education, 37(2), pp. 71-74.
Zeltzer, D. (1990) Virtual Environments: Where Are We Going? Proceedings 12th International IDATE (Institut de I’Audiovisuel Telecommunications en Europe) Conference, Montpelier, France.
Anne Mangahas is STEM director at Pacificia Christian High School
Posted: Tuesday, March 14th, 2017
The pre-publication version of the new California Science Curriculum Framework is now available for download. This publication incorporates all the edits that were approved by the State Board of Education in November 2016 and was many months in the making. Our sincere thanks to the dozens of CSTA members were involved in its development. Our appreciation is also extended to the California Department of Education, the State Board of Education, the Instructional Quality Commission, and the Science Curriculum Framework and Evaluation Criteria Committee and their staff for their hard work and dedication to produce this document and for their commitment to the public input process. To the many writers and contributors to the Framework CSTA thanks you for your many hours of work to produce a world-class document.
For tips on how to approach this document see our article from December 2016: California Has Adopted a New Science Curriculum Framework – Now What …? If you would like to learn more about the Framework, consider participating in one of the Framework Launch events (a.k.a. Rollout #4) scheduled throughout 2017.
The final publication version (formatted for printing) will be available in July 2017. This document will not be available in printed format, only electronically.
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
The 2017 Award Season is now open! One of the benefits of being a CSTA member is your eligibility for awards as well as your eligibility to nominate someone for an award. CSTA offers several awards and members may nominate individuals and organizations for the Future Science Teacher Award, the prestigious Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award, and the CSTA Distinguished Contributions Award (organizational award). May 9, 2017 is the deadline for nominations for these awards. CSTA believes that the importance of science education cannot be overstated. Given the essential presence of the sciences in understanding the past and planning for the future, science education remains, and will increasingly be one of the most important disciplines in education. CSTA is committed to recognizing and encouraging excellence in science teaching through the presentation of awards to science educators and organizations who have made outstanding contributions in science education in the state and who are poised to continue the momentum of providing high quality, relevant science education into the future. Learn More…
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
CSTA is now accepting applications from regular, preservice, and retired members to serve on our volunteer committees! CSTA’s all-volunteer board of directors invites you to consider maximizing your member experience by volunteering for CSTA. CSTA committee service offers you the opportunity to share your expertise, learn a new skill, or do something you love to do but never have the opportunity to do in your regular day. CSTA committee volunteers do some pretty amazing things: Learn More…
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
by Marian Murphy-Shaw
If you attended an NGSS Rollout phase 1-3 or CDE workshops at CSTA’s annual conference you may recall hearing from Chris Breazeale when he was working with the CDE. Chris has relocated professionally, with his passion for science education, and is now the Executive Director at the Explorit Science Center, a hands-on exploration museum featuring interactive STEM exhibits located at the beautiful Mace Ranch, 3141 5th St. in Davis, CA. Visitors can “think it, try it, and explorit” with a variety of displays that allow visitors to “do science.” To preview the museum, or schedule a classroom visit, see www.explorit.org. Learn More…
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
by Joseph Calmer
Probably like you, NGSS has been at the forefront of many department meetings, lunch conversations, and solitary lesson planning sessions. Despite reading the original NRC Framework, the Ca Draft Frameworks, and many CSTA writings, I am still left with the question: “what does it actually mean for my classroom?”
I had an eye-opening experience that helped me with that question. It came out of a conversation that I had with a student teacher. It turns out that I’ve found the secret to learning how to teach with NGSS: I need to engage in dialogue about teaching with novice teachers. I’ve had the pleasure of teaching science in some capacity for 12 years. During that time pedagogy and student learning become sort of a “hidden curriculum.” It is difficult to plan a lesson for the hidden curriculum; the best way is to just have two or more professionals talk and see what emerges. I was surprised it took me so long to realize this epiphany. Learn More…