A New Reality

This post is part of a continuing series on game-based learning in connection with the Games For Change Festival.

If you’re interested in seeing what lies ahead in educational gaming, I suggest following the Games for Change organization. You can also look at Glass Lab Games, Schell Games, and Filament Games who are all pushing the boundaries between play and learning. Also, Minecraft and Civilization VI have education editions that are currently available or on the horizon, furthering the idea of play as learning. But the next horizon seems to be virtual reality. So, what does that mean for educators?

Why shouldn’t people be able to teleport wherever they want?

– Palmer Lucky, Founder of Oculus VR

VIRTUAL REALITYVirtual Berlin 3d Oculus Rift Virtual Reality

What does the future of educational gaming hold? No one can say definitively, but the line between games and reality are likely to become blurred in a number of ways. With the Samsung Gear, HTC Vive, and the Oculus Rift all being released it would seem that there is a resurgent market for VR technology. While the educational market is just starting with apps like Discovery VR, InMind VR, and Titans of Space, there are a number of learning opportunities available. You could travel to locations that would be impossible on a field trip like Stonehenge, deep space, World War II Poland, prehistoric earth, or inside a human cell. The possibilities are nearly endless.

Google Cardboard StudentsGoogle Expeditions offers a kit and a classroom experience to continue this journey to both famous and unknown sites around the world. It is incredible to watch as students who have rarely ventured outside their neighborhood now experience mountain climbing and deep sea diving in a safe virtual environment. You can also travel virtually in Google Earth VR while Sites VR offers similar experiences on a smaller scale. Nearpod VR also a great way for a teacher to dip a toe into the virtual world while remaining grounded with their content and assessment tools. Schell Games has some interesting new VR experiences like SuperChem VR. Filament Games offers virtual forensics and Mars explorations.

For those who work with special needs students, it might be useful to look into some non-traditional activities. Some VR platforms even seek to help people understand the experience of a person with autism with TMI and the autism simulator. In my district we are recording some traditional experiences like going to the supermarket or on the subway using 360° cameras to allow students with physical and behavioral challenges to practice those experiences in a safe virtual space. And, of course, District 75’s 3D World helps students learn and practice financial, social, and other life skills in a similar way.

unity vrAmbitious students or staff can attempt to create their own VR games using Simon on a Stick, CoSpaces Edu, or the more well-known and highly regarded Unity If you like the results, you might even consider entering your student into the National STEM Video Game Challenge.


The differences between virtual reality and augmented reality are that VR is escaping into another world and interacting with that world. Augmented reality involves seeing added digital images or information in the real world using a device like a smartphone. For that reason augmented reality games like Pokemon Go can be a great social experience in juxtaposition to the isolation of VR. The use of Pokemon Go in class necessitates its own post, but there are many other options for using AR in school.

Happy Atoms

Some of what is available now though includes augmented reality apps like Star Walk, Google Translate AR, Future Stories, or Anatomy 4D. Alternatively, Happy Atoms provides an experience with physical molecular models that interact with an augmented reality app. Meanwhile, the American Museum of Natural History is also offering a variety of augmented reality experiences like Playing with Dinos, Crime-Scene Neanderthal, and exploring biodiversity in MicroRangers.

Using apps like Blippar or Aurasma you bring the outside world into your classroom. Some possible uses include:

  • adapted books with triggers for picture symbols or expanded information
  • Aurasma video writing prompts to spark creativity
  • AR images of objects relating to vocabulary words
  • a scavenger hunt around school with historical figures
  • an enhanced bulletin board or display with linked videos showing the learn process
MIXED REALITYScreen-Shot-2015-08-06-at-10.46.28-AM.png

Mixed reality brings together the interaction of VR with real spaces. While much of mixed reality is still in its infancy, companies like Magic Leap are making great strides to make it available. Here is a look at a possible classroom of the future.