September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

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.

CCSAdBProject Based Learning and Rendering Virtual Reality Immersive Experiences

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.

Reflections

VR Project Image Capture Courtesy of Z. Gremillion (Student Project)

VR Project Image Capture Courtesy of Z. Gremillion (Student Project)

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.

VR Project Image Capture Courtesy of L. Dwight (Student Project)

VR Project Image Capture Courtesy of L. Dwight (Student Project)

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

HS-LS1 From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes

Performance expectation

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.]

Click on the image to view a larger version.

Click on the image to view a larger version.

Virtual Reality, Immersive Experiences and Cognitive Perception Project Rubric

Click on image to view a larger version.

Click on image to view a larger version.

REFERENCES

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

Written by Guest Contributor

From time to time CSTA receives contributions from guest contributors. The opinions and views expressed by these contributors are not necessarily those of CSTA. By publishing these articles CSTA does not make any endorsements or statements of support of the author or their contribution, either explicit or implicit. All links to outside sources are subject to CSTA’s Disclaimer Policy: http://www.classroomscience.org/disclaimer.

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