It’s an exciting time for the future of education. New immersive technology is opening pathways to learning that has the potential to engage students in and out of the classroom. For example, educators are beginning to use VR in schools as a teaching tool. This exciting technology allows students to travel around the globe from the safety of their desks.
How is this all possible? The metaverse.
The term may sound unfamiliar right now, but you’ll begin to hear it more and more in the coming months, as it transforms into a routine part of daily life.
The metaverse is essentially an expanded internet. It’s a 3-D, digital space that anyone can access through headsets or other devices. In the metaverse, users can play games, watch videos, plus create and view content. This is all possible because of extended reality.
Extended reality is an umbrella term that encompasses virtual reality, augmented reality, and mixed reality.
- Virtual reality fully immerses users in a digital environment
- Augmented reality layers digital imaging on the real world (think Pokémon Go)
- Mixed reality creates interaction between the digital and physical realm (like a hologram)
As extended reality becomes commonplace, schools will be expected to broaden children’s digital literacy to include these skills. Students will need to be proficient with virtual reality to succeed in their adult lives, much like older adults who had early exposure to the internet had an edge on their peers when everything went online.
However, we understand that it can be difficult to keep children safe while introducing them to new technology. The internet can be a scary place. Sites like YouTube, while useful, can lead kids down a rabbit hole of age-inappropriate content. The metaverse can also pose issues.
That’s why we take safety so seriously. Kai XR provides a safe learning environment where students can immerse themselves in new surroundings to tinker with, learn about, and explore the world around them—all from the comfort and safety of the classroom or their own homes. Our experiences allow kids to explore VR in school in a fully age-appropriate, healthy way.
In this article, we’ll share some research on the safety of using virtual reality in the classroom. We’ll also outline Kai XR’s three dimensions of safety VR for kids. Our goal is to help parents and educators who are ready to introduce children to this exciting tech in an age-appropriate fashion.
Let’s jump in!
Safe VR Headsets for Education
Currently, most fully-immersive VR headsets are not recommended for use by children under 13 years old. However, there is not yet a large body of research on the subject of children and VR.
Until that information comes in, Common Sense Media encourages families and educators to ensure that children exercise moderation when using VR. This can help eliminate potential health risks common for kids who overuse any blue-light or smart-screen device.
The truth is that kids are already looking at screens for large amounts of time each day. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry reported in 2020 that 8-12 year olds in the U.S. spend an average of 4-6 hours interacting with screens.
They caution that too much screen time can lead to:
- Problems sleeping
- Little time spent with friends and family
- Little time playing outside and exercising
- Problems with mood and self-image
At Kai XR, we take screen time seriously. We believe that virtual reality in school–when used with screen time limits–has limitless educational potential.
That’s why we provide a safe pathway to introduce students of all ages to the wonders of VR. That includes non-immersive 360° experiences (viewed on tablets, smartphones, and laptops) for children 12 years old and younger, as well as immersive VR, AR, and XR content for students ages 13 and up. It also means all our virtual field trips—VR or non-immersive—are broken up into bite-size chunks so students only spend on average 4 minutes in front of a screen or behind a VR headset at a time. That ensures they are able to take regular breaks to avoid eye fatigue and strain.
Using Virtual Reality in the Classroom: Exploration Mode
We developed a special pathway to virtual reality to keep younger students healthy and safe. This feature allows students to transform their device into a VR tablet with Exploration Mode.
While VR headsets insert children into a 360º environment all at once, Kai XR’s Exploration Mode allows them to explore a 360º experience at their own pace, while still fully grounded in the physical world. All students have to do is move their device around. As they do so, new aspects of the digital experience are revealed.
While it’s possible to access Exploration Mode from laptops and smartphones, tablets are the #1 choice because they:
- Are easy to move around
- Have large screens
- Can be easily shared
- Provide a fun scavenger hunt for kids as they search for the action
There are plenty of exploration mode-compatible experiences for younger students to choose from. For example, students can take a 360 Virtual Reality Trip to a Nasa Space Walking Training. As they move their tablet, they’ll get an in-depth look at training–and we mean literally, as the field trip takes students under the water of the largest indoor pool.
This location is known as the neutral buoyancy lab, home to a to-scale model of the International Space Station. Here, young students will have a blast moving their device around to watch astronauts paddle around practicing maneuvers and maintenance procedures.
Exploration mode can also catapult students back in time.
For example, one of our virtual field trips for kindergarten teaches students about the Mesozoic Era (aka: the age of dinosaurs). In this experience, students are transported to a museum in Berlin, where they watch the fossils of a now-extinct dinosaur transform back into a living Giraffatitan.
Students will be delighted to watch this giant of the past stomp around the museum and nose at leaf-printed banners in search of a snack, all while a narrator explains what the dinosaur was like during its lifetime.
The beauty of these experiences is that they allow students to explore exciting and unfamiliar places while remaining fully grounded in the physical world. This can be a great way to gently introduce virtual reality in the classroom, while maintaining clear lines between fantasy and reality for younger students.
VR Education Software That’s Teacher-Approved
Now that we’ve gotten health concerns out of the way, what about content? When you let children access the metaverse, are you sending them into an uncharted territory of targeted advertising and age-inappropriate content?
We understand the concerns surrounding entering a new digital landscape. The fact is that children and teenagers are inundated by advertisements no less than adults are. Plus, children often have trouble identifying the intent behind ads.
As a policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) pointed out, children under 7 are largely unable to recognize persuasive intent–the idea that someone else is aiming to have an impact on their actions. Plus, while 7-11 year olds can begin to point out persuasive intent, it's still difficult for them to recognize that ads are part of a huge commercial machine.
By age 12, children are likely to fully understand persuasive intent and the commercial interests of advertisers. However, this does not mean that they are able to resist their influence. This is especially true in an age where many ads are presented as mini games, social media posts, or Tik Tok videos.
Parsing out advertisements from content can be nearly impossible.
However, the safety of children using the metaverse is largely determined by what educators and parents allow them to access. The good news is that there are plenty of ways to ensure that children only view age-appropriate content when using VR in training and education.
To do this, the AAP ultimately called for increased regulation of advertising to children. However, they also encouraged parents to:
- Stay aware of what kids are downloading
- Teach them to be informed consumers
- Monitor privacy settings
- Teach children about data collection
- Talk to schools about data privacy
While these recommendations are directed at guardians, educators can implement many of these suggestions at school by ensuring that school devices
- Are equipped with ad-blockers
- Have stringent privacy settings
- Only accept necessary cookies
- Block age-inappropriate websites
Beyond prevention, educators can also actively incorporate safe, engaging technology into their lesson plans.
Age-Appropriate Virtual Reality for Classrooms
At Kai XR, our non-immersive 360° and VR content is all student-tested and educator-approved. All the experiential and educational material available through our interactive platform has been developed to be age-appropriate. That’s by design so educators and parents never have to worry about the safety or wellbeing of students and children using our system.
Unlike other platforms where kids might explore VR—we’re looking at you, YouTube—you can rest assured they will never be exposed to dangerous, violent, or otherwise inappropriate material on Kai XR. Plus, we include a rating with our viewing age recommendations in each lesson.
This is true even for lessons that deal with difficult or sensitive content. For example, our “My Brother’s Keeper” experience, produced by PBS, follows two siblings fighting on opposite sides of the Civil War.
While the field trip does not gloss over the pain of war, it also does not dwell on violence. Instead, it focuses on the emotions of two brothers and how war not only does large-scale damage to nations, but also does small-scale damage to families and individuals.
We recommend this experience for ages 12 and up. The field trip will generate important discussions in middle school classrooms. From there, educators can share more historical information about the Civil War and how its legacy impacts the U.S. to this day.
Creating an Inclusive Space with Virtual Reality for the Classroom
Not only do we strive to introduce students to complex topics in a mature way, we also strive to do so in an inclusive way. We specifically understand that the U.S. school system has a long way to go when discussing race, and we aim to provide tools to bridge this gap.
According to a paper published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, children begin to process race long before adults broach the topic with them. Unfortunately, this can lead children to come to their own inaccurate or harmful conclusions.
The good news is that educators can play an important role by stepping in and leading difficult conversations.
For example, researchers investigated how Ethnic Studies classes impacted students struggling to keep up with peers in San Francisco. These Ethnic Studies courses focused on events often ignored in social studies classes, including:
- The genocide of Native Americans in California
- Labor organizing by African Americans and Filipino Americans during the Great Depression and WWII
- Community organizing in Chinese and Latinx California neighborhoods
Beyond delving into history, the courses also had students reflect on their own identities and then complete a project in their community.
Essentially, the courses provided ninth-grade students with a space to investigate and critique social structures at play in the past and present.
The study found that these students were more likely to graduate high school after taking an Ethnic Studies course in ninth grade.
Inclusive education is impactful education.
We strive to create a safe space for students of all backgrounds to learn, play, and grow. Our culturally diverse virtual field trips enable students to better understand, respect, and collaborate with people from all walks of life. Learning these skills now helps position students for success in our increasingly interconnected world.
Our virtual reality experiences transcend the status quo to introduce students to important, sometimes difficult topics.
For example, our virtual field trip to the Negro Leagues Baseball museum opens with the question “what would you do if your dreams were denied due to the color of your skin?” It’s a big question, but one that is a big piece of U.S. history.
In this field trip, Kai XR’s CEO Kai Frazier takes students on a virtual tour of the museum with its president, Bob Kendrick. The pair share information with students about how major league baseball teams would not allow African Americans to play. For this reason, Black players created their own league, full of star players.
While this field trip celebrates the collaboration, skill, and victories of African American baseball players of the past, it also does not shy away from the discrimination and danger they faced when traveling for games and eventually integrating the major leagues. Our experiences are designed to explore complex topics in a way that all students can understand.
Many of our field trips are great teaching tools for Black History Month. Examples include:
- A virtual field trip to the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial
- A Futuristic Black History fireside chat
- A visit to view the Obama portraits at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery
We also offer many field trips around the world for the VR classroom, including:
- Laundry Day Around the World
- We Shall Have Peace
- Dreaming in Za’atari.
Our offerings allow students to step out of their own shoes and explore the world from many lenses, ultimately enriching their education and creating more curious, open individuals
VR in Training and Education is Here to Stay
VR educational software will be a big part of the future.
A 2020 survey on augmented and virtual reality found that immersive reality was growing. Not only did they project the sector to make large profits, but also to greatly impact training of all kinds.
For example, the survey indicated that virtual reality could be a great teaching tool for surgeons and astronauts alike, allowing them to practice procedures in a real, but low-stakes environment. There are also many practical applications for VR to other industries, including manufacturing and retail. Immersive reality is an educational tool like nothing before.
That’s why it is critical that educators introduce VR in the classroom. Learning this skill now will set students up for success in the future.
Kai XR is the Future of Education. Our safe, teacher-approved, inclusive virtual experiences are the perfect vehicle for using VR in the classroom. Whether you’re introducing Black History month to kids or demonstrating a new science concept, our virtual reality experiences:
- Introduce complex topics in ways students will understand
- Tie lessons to impactful visuals and narratives
- Generate interesting class discussion
- Promote critical thinking
On our platform, students will never encounter advertisements or age-inappropriate content. Plus, whether your classroom uses educational VR headsets, tablets, or laptops, our library will have a quality lesson you can use to introduce your classroom to VR.
Kai XR has received praise from Steve Harvey and NBC’s Shomari Stone. We were also selected for T-Mobile’s immersive technology program, where we continue to find new ways to introduce students to the metaverse.
Connecting students to the world through virtual reality is our priority.
When you’re ready, you can get started enriching students’ learning by setting up Kai XR for your program or school.
Liked this? Also check out:
- Teaching and Learning with Educational VR
- Explore Black History at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
- 21st Century Skills for Students: The Long-Term Benefits of Virtual Reality
Featured Image: Unsplash