Stanford Experiments with Virtual Reality, Social-Emotional Learning and Oculus Rift

[The growing popularity of Virtual Reality (VR) is moving in new directions. In this Edsurge article two schools share how they’re using VR as part of a focus on social and emotional learning. In the past simulations didn’t really engage students. The simulations were artificial. VR has the potential to change the equation. One of the leading researchers for VR is MindCET, an educational technology think tank in Israel. While they question some of the hype with VR, they feel that examples like the experiment at the Alpha School and Synapse School in California deserves our attention.]

Virtual Reality using zSpace

Photo by Norton Gusky CC BY 4.0

By Blake Montgomery Aug 16, 2016

What can virtual reality, the technology that arguably takes the viewer farthest away from the tangible world, teach students about expressing themselves and interacting with each other?

Two experiments at two very different California schools aimed to find out.

In May 2016 at San Jose’s Alpha Public Schools, a 13-year-old student named Jose met four Stanford computer science students bearing an Oculus headset and a laptop. Jose was among the first student to try Emoti, a virtual reality (VR) mindfulness exercise developed with the help of a $3,000 grant from inspirED, a partnership between Facebook and the Yale Center of Emotional Intelligence.

Jose put on the headset, headphones and, lastly, a watch-like device designed to measure stress by tracking heart rate and sweat. The first thing he saw was a beach set against a pink sunset—a calming backdrop. Emoti’s simulation then taught him a mindfulness exercise—breathe deeply as he pressed his middle finger to his thumb—with text, CGI demonstrations of the hand motions and verbal instructions.

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