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: Wednesday, October 12th, 2016
by Jessica Sawko
In June 2016 California submitted a waiver application to discontinue using the old CST (based on 1998 standards) and conduct two years of pilot and field tests (in spring 2017 and 2018, respectively) of the new science assessment designed to support our state’s current science standards (California Next Generation Science Standards (CA-NGSS) adopted in 2013). The waiver was requested because no student scores will be provided as a part of the pilot and field tests. The CDE received a response from the U.S. Department of Education (ED) on September 30, 2016, which provides the CDE the opportunity to resubmit a revised waiver request within 60 days. The CDE will be revising the waiver request and resubmitting as ED suggested.
At its October 2016 North/South Assessment meetings CDE confirmed that there will be no administration of the old CST in the spring of 2017. (An archive of the meeting is available at http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/tg/ai/infomeeting.asp.) Learn More…
Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016
by Carol Peterson
1) To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, Google has put together a collection of virtual tours combining 360-degree video, panoramic photos and expert narration. It’s called “The Hidden Worlds of the National Parks” and is accessible right from the browser. You can choose from one of five different locales, including the Kenai Fjords in Alaska and Bryce Canyon in Utah, and get a guided “tour” from a local park ranger. Each one has a few virtual vistas to explore, with documentary-style voiceovers and extra media hidden behind clickable thumbnails. Ideas are included for use in classrooms. https://www.engadget.com/2016/08/25/google-offers-360-degree-tours-of-us-national-parks/. Learn More…
Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016
CSTA is pleased to announce the winners of the 2016 CSTA Awards for Distinguished Contributions, Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award, 2014 and 2015 PAEMST-Science recipients from California, and the 2016 California PAEMST Finalists. The following individuals and organizations will be honored during the 2016 California Science Education Conference on October 21- 23 in Palm Springs. This year’s group of awardees are truly outstanding. Please join us in congratulating them!
Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award
The Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award honors an individual who has made a significant contribution to science education in the state and who, through years of leadership and service, has truly made a positive impact on the quality of science teaching. This year’s recipient is John Keller, Ph.D. Dr. Keller is Associate Professor, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Co-Director, Center for Engineering, Science, and Mathematics Education, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. In her letter of recommendation, SDSU science education faculty and former CSTA board member Donna Ross wrote: “He brings people together who share the desire to make a difference in the development and implementation of programs for science teaching. Examples of these projects include the Math and Science Teaching Initiative (MSTI), Noyce Scholars Program, Western Regional Noyce Initiative, and the Science Teacher and Researcher (STAR) program.” Through his work, he has had a dramatic impact on science teacher education, both preservice and in-service, in California, the region, and the country. He developed and implemented the STEM Teacher and Researcher Program which aims to produce excellent K-12 STEM teachers by providing aspiring teachers with opportunities to do authentic research while helping them translate their research experience into classroom practice. SFSU faculty member Larry Horvath said it best in his letter:“John Keller exemplifies the best aspects of a scientist, science educator, and mentor. His contributions to science education in the state of California are varied, significant, and I am sure will continue well into the future.” Learn More…
Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016
by Peter A’hearn
NGSS is a big shift. Teachers need to learn new content, figure out how this whole engineering thing relates to science, and develop new unit and lesson plans. How could NGSS possibly make life easier?
The idea that NGSS could make our lives easier came to me during the California State NGSS Rollout #1 Classroom Example lesson on chromatography. I have since done this lesson with high school chemistry students and it made me think back to having my own students do chromatography. I spent lots of time preparing to make sure the experiment went well and achieved the “correct” result. I pre-prepared the solutions and organized and prepped the materials. I re-wrote and re-wrote again the procedure so there was no way a kid could get it wrong. I spent 20 minutes before the lab modeling all of the steps in class, so there was no way to do it wrong. Except that it turns out there were many. Learn More…
Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016
by Robert C. Victor. Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller. Graph of evening planet setting times by Dr. Jeffrey L. Hunt
Our evening twilight chart for September, depicting the sky about 40 minutes after sunset from SoCal, shows brilliant Venus remaining low, creeping from W to WSW and gaining a little altitude as the month progresses. Its close encounter within 2.5° N of Spica on Sept. 18 is best seen with binoculars to catch the star low in bright twilight. The brightest stars in the evening sky are golden Arcturus descending in the west, and blue-white Vega passing just north of overhead. Look for Altair and Deneb completing the Summer Triangle with Vega. The triangle of Mars-Saturn-Antares expands as Mars seems to hold nearly stationary in SSW as the month progresses, while Saturn and Antares slink off to the SW. Learn More…