By Sue-Ellen Lamb, Head of School, Race Leys Junior School
In 2021 weintroduced an innovative and high-tech method of providing children with new and excitingexperiences during the pandemic, with a helping hand from Virtual Reality (VR). Since then, technology has continuously encouraged children to explore new subjects and helped to give the children almost ‘first hand’ experiences without leaving their classrooms.
It all started with the pandemic when, because of travel restrictions, the school couldn’t organise school trips which are highly valued by staff and children and a key component of all Griffin Schools Trust Schools. So, in need of a solution, we decided to look for new ways of travelling, but from within the classroom.
After purchasing the headsets and preparing for the first trip, everything was ready. One introductory lesson for the children later, and they were off ontheir first VR trip.It was a great success, with the excitement of a new experience merged with the joy of a school trip meaning the pupils could not wait to repeat the adventure.
Our school, Race Leys Junior School, has 32 VR headsets in total, making it possible to teach a whole class using this technology. The teachers control what the children see according to their curriculum and needs.
For example, children started with augmentedreality (AR) ina science lesson, havingthe opportunity to manipulate the human heart in front of their eyes, betterobserve its beats, and turn it around to see every part of it. From the pupils’ reaction and follow up on the next class, we knew that they learned most of the important part of the lesson from the AR experience.
Thanks to the VR headsets, the lessons are more engaging and comprehensive, as the pupils can see every detail, making almost everything easier to understand. For example, understanding the Romans’ environment and lifestyle can help link their behaviour with their actions, and therefore the children’s understanding.
Moreover, by allowing a child to visualise everything,the chances of the knowledge being memorised is significantly increased.
What is essential to make a note of is that something that was initially a short-term solution opened the door to better teaching and learning. All our teachers were keen to introduce, whereever possible, the new way of teaching. As a result, subjects like geography, scienceand historywere the first to use VR and AR to make their lessons more engaging for the children.
The feedback that came from our children was extraordinary. They were excited to use the technology first and were entirely absorbed by the lessons. The visual effects helped them find new passions in the subject and learn a lot of further information from the classroom. More importantly, they enjoyed a new way of learning that included technology which they were so used to.
Our teachers were open, curious, and intrigued by the new ways of teaching. Now, the children can travel even in the depths of the ocean and see the living creatures hidden by the waves, and it is easier for them to guide their pupils.
Another plus that came with the new technology was the children’s interest in how this can help them.This proves that it is essential to keep evolving and using the technology around us, mainly because the children are surrounded by it and constantly use it.
The overall response from every partyinvolved, teachers, staff, children, and parents, was overwhelming. Our school has a greaterinterest in technology, inspiring everyone to get involved in the learning process.
We have come a long way from that first momentwhen we decided to adopt virtual and augmented reality, yet the most exciting part is that there is more to come. After our success,we have vowed to embrace technology and to support the children’s learning process with every tool that could be beneficial.
Here at Race Leys Junior, as with all Griffin Schools Trust schools, we have three strong pillars;Proud Traditions, Wide Horizons and High Achievement. What is incredible is that VR and ARhelps us incorporate all three pillars at once.
The new technology is a proud tradition from 2021 onwards. It has opened our ways of teaching and communicating with the pupils andempowered them to focus more on innovative learning tools and bringingenhanced results.