Although it may have once seemed too good to be true, virtual reality (VR) has exploded in recent years, becoming a common fixture in entertainment, industry, and education. VR systems from Oculus, HTC, Sony, and more can often be found in students’ homes as video game developers release increasingly sophisticated and immersive versions of their games. Various industries have also taken to using VR as a training tool, enabling companies to acquaint employees with situations or environments that may be difficult to access or recreate. These, along with similar applications in education, are fantastic multimodal experiences that can promote engagement and learning through immersion into (and in more complex systems, interaction with) digital environments. However, most of our current interactions with VR involve consumption — we, and our students, partake in VR experiences that have been created by someone else. How much more powerful could our learning be if we could actually create with virtual reality?
Google Tour Creator is one of several tools allowing users to do just that, and better yet — it’s easier to use than you’d think! All you need to do to create your own Tour is to take a 360º photo (easily done using the Google Street View application – iOS, Android – on your smartphone), upload it into Tour Creator, and add as many annotations as you’d like. These annotations (or “points of interest”, as Google calls them) can be presented in text, image, or sound, and users can even add background music to set the mood!
Once your Tour is complete, simply click publish, set your visibility (unlisted Tours can help reduce the number of unwanted viewers), and share the link with whoever you’d like to be able to view the VR experience you’ve created. For the most immersive experience, open the Tour on a smartphone and insert it into your VR headset of choice (Cardboard, Viewmaster, etc.). Don’t have a VR headset? No problem! Just open the link in your web browser, and view it as you would any other 360º photograph.
I was surprised by just how little time it took to master the Google Tour Creator platform, and can easily see students of all ages being able to create awesome VR experiences (with a bit of help to get started, for our primary friends). Want your first grade students to explore their local communities? Take a couple of 360º photos of notable spots and have them do the annotations! Learning about space? Have students grab the one of the Astronomy or Solar System templates (oh yeah, did I forget to mention the templates that come pre-built with amazing photos?!) and customize it with their own research!
There is so much you can do with this amazing application, and so many places it could integrate seamlessly with your curricular plan. I highly recommend checking this one out!