This project aims to identify the opportunities and challenges when it comes to developing, implementing and evaluating an immersive virtual reality (VR) tool for science teaching in primary schools.
Many topics addressed in science education concern non-observable aspects of the world, such as microcosmic and macrocosmic structures and processes. However, actively experiencing and manipulating a dynamic environment is a crucial source of learning, particularly for children. Thus, there is a need for developing innovative teaching methods that provide access to unobservable processes and structures.
We think that VR has the power to connect inaccessible spheres to our direct experience. Two VR characteristics that support science education are the interaction with virtual model worlds and the immersion into virtual worlds. Both interactive and immersive characteristics are important sources of learning from an educational and developmental point of view. We plan to use the natural water cycle including the particle model of water as test topic.
Criteria for topic selection were:
- topic concerning a non-directly observable environment (microcosm or macrocosm)
- topic centrally based on the school program (Lehrplan 21)
- topic easily implemented in a VR environment
- topic of high societal relevance.
We will compare different educational media and we hypothesize that the interactive and immersive experience of VR will facilitate the understanding of inaccessible micro- and macrocosmic structures when compared for example to a book, a video or a play situation. We plan to work in collaboration with teachers, to create a VR tool that supplements existing textbooks/materials and can be used with 11-12-year-old children.