Avatars in VR gallery looking at a virtual artwork

Virtual Reality in the Classroom

Using VR in the Classroom: Impressions and Thoughts about Virtual Learning Galleries

March 1, 2022


 min Read


MediaCombo, in association with Watershed Collaborative, is developing Virtual Learning Galleries (VLG) is a VR education platform designed toteach critical thinking and other essential 21st Century skills through participation in Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) discussions,using culturally significant artwork from outstanding museum collections.

In January, as part of our ongoing effort to demonstrate the effectiveness of practicing VTS in virtual environments, we arranged a test session in a mocked-up VR gallery with four 8th-grade students and their teacher at the Cave Springs School in Bunch, Oklahoma.

The session was lead by a facilitator who joined from Brooklyn, NY. The students had no prior experience with VTS or VR headsets. The facilitator led the students through brief VTS discussions of four paintings in a 35 minute session. We recorded the session in the VR space and edited a 13 minute video to show to a classroom teacher and student counselor in Bunch, one teacher in Brooklyn, and nine museum educators from around the US. We held two zoom calls to show the video to this audience and answer their questions, and we asked them to fill out a brief survey.  Below you can find their responses.

Cave Springs Students said:

"…we  went into a museum and showed us like a variation of pictures and artwork and  they asked us to describe what we saw …I personally think that was a really  good experience because… it took like a learning standpoint, they made it  like fun instead of boring."

"We don't really get the opportunity to go on trips and everything. So I feel like that VR experience is way better because it helps us get to do stuff  we normally wouldn't get to do."

"Because COVID and stuff you don't really get to go museums much, and you can get close up instead of like standing like probably three feet backfrom it without touching it."

Teachers said:

"This felt really quite authentic as a conversation… watching the  students by the end, they're totally facilitating themselves, which is always  something you look for to happen over time."

"I love how the students  can interact and how it brought them out of their shell."

"I do have a smart TV in my classroom but to see how they interact like that and how they interacted  like this, and this was totally different. They enjoyed it…"

“This is a great plan  for students and it would help our students have an experience that they may not have an opportunity to otherwise have."

"Interested in how this might help my special needs population of students across the DOE."

In answer to the  question: would you be interested in bringing the VLG experience into your  institution, classroom or practice? 100% YES

Museum Educators said:

"I did think a lot  about potential pros/cons of facilitating conversations in a low-tech way vs.  in your VR example. I think if you get funding to create a space more  indicative of museum spaces there is true value in having students, who may  or may not have access to these spaces IRL, access them virtually/immersively."

"I liked how well VTS  worked in the VR environment--how engaged the students were with the works  and with one another, especially as they looked at more artworks."

"I like the idea of  true immersive museum experience of students getting to walk around the  exhibit and choose what to look at, and perhaps including videos of animals /reenactments/presentations  and 3D sculpture, etc. This could also be useful from an accessibility  standpoint, allowing individuals to explore an exhibit before visiting (i.e.  Autism spectrum) and individuals who have trouble travelling to museums."

“I was interested in how fluid this appears  to be for the students […] they were very calm and focused…They intuitively understand the VR  space and how to navigate inside of it, even without knowing what visiting an  art gallery would be like in IRL."

100% said they would be  interested in bringing the VLG experience into their institution.

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