Can you imagine learning American history or biology through virtual reality goggles? Nearpod Inc., a startup focused on making education software, supplied 10,000 schools across the nation with the equipment necessary for a virtual reality lesson.
Nearpod wants school boards to consider this: instead of purchasing textbooks, clickers, headsets, and other hardware, Nearpod wants districts to rely on district-supplied electronics. The problem is however, most teachers still haven’t made the transition to using SMART Boards, or simply don’t want to use them. “Many teachers are apprehensive about incorporating virtual reality, and technology in general, into their classrooms,” said Nearpod CEO Guido Kovalsky.
A study conducted in Canada shows that out of 1,100 teachers surveyed, only half use interactive boards regularly. In addition, nearly three- quarters of teachers reported having technical difficulties using SMART Boards yet students absolutely love interactive boards according to the same study.
One of the big things virtual reality will do for students is let them experience immersive, 360-degree images to enhance learning and take learning about the subject to the next level. Brandon Farwell, a Nearpod investor, says, “Once teachers have tried virtual reality with their classes, they will realize it opens up their students’ imaginations to the world beyond their textbooks.”
This is crucial especially in elementary and middle schools, where reading isn’t one of the strongest abilities of a student. Another problem with textbooks is that they get outdated so quickly. Virtual reality lessons can be updated easily online with software. A middle-school science teacher, Susan Oltman, even told NPR in an interview that outdated science textbooks put a burden on teachers to do their own research and put in extra time to remain up-to-date.
An 11th-grade French teacher in San Francisco, Kenneth Mendribil, recently tested Nearpod’s product and noticed that his students were more likely to turn in their assignments to the Nearpod app.
Mendribil’s experience with Nearpod’s virtual reality electronics is a perfect example of how virtual reality can enhance engagement and performance in the classroom.