Virtual reality is going to change the way we learn in a big way, but how will that happen? We’ve been keeping an eye on how VR is used in the classroom for a few years now, and we’ve even made some predictions along the way. Want to see what the classrooms of the future might look like if they are full of technology? Find out how these early adopters of VR for learning are using the technology to enhance their existing lessons and pave the way for other schools to follow:
VR Inside the Classroom Trips
Fans of using VR to learn probably already know about the Google Expeditions program. It lets teachers use cheap cardboard VR headsets to take students on virtual field trips in the classroom. Teachers can choose from a growing list of more than 200 Google-curated expeditions, such as a trip to the International Space Station, a behind-the-scenes look at a TV studio, a deep dive to explore the bottom of the ocean, and more, and customize each one to fit their curriculum. Due to the low cost of cardboard VR equipment, Google Expeditions is a good choice for larger classrooms and school districts. Google has even started experimenting with new AR features, giving any student with a smartphone access to a whole new world of immersive learning opportunities. Visit the official website for the Google Expeditions program to learn more about it.
A Different Way to Teach Math
AMD brought VR to a school in Toronto, Canada, so that students and teachers could try it out and see how well it works as a teaching tool. Students worked together to draw 3D graphs in virtual reality using Google’s Tilt Brush, a popular tool that lets users paint in 3D space using VR. Kelvin Lam, a teacher, says that drawing 3D structures in VR can help students learn how a certain mathematical system works much better than trying to show the same information in a more traditional, 2D way. Overall, school staff seemed happy with how the VR trials in the classroom affected student engagement. After all, when was the last time you saw so many students smiling in the middle of math class?
Virtual STEM Labs
In the above TED Talk, Michael Bodekaer, the founder and CTO of Labster, talks about how his company is trying to change STEM education by making a fully simulated virtual reality laboratory that can simulate both simple and complex experiments. Bodekaer says that Labster could be a way for colleges and universities to save money because the simulations let students try out experiments virtually before they do them with real equipment and resources. For more immersion, the company has started making and using interesting stories in their labs. For example, they might ask students to do different lab tests to help solve a mysterious murder case. Bodekaer ends his TED Talk by emphasizing a key point: for virtual reality to have the biggest possible impact in schools, teachers must be willing to use it as a key part of their teaching toolkit.
Making Games for People All Over the World
Gaming has become a global phenomenon, with more than 2.5 billion active players around the world, and it doesn’t look like it will slow down any time soon.
In our increasingly globalized world, it’s important that game developers make sure their games can be played and enjoyed by people all over the world. Over the past 10 years, we’ve worked with clients from all over the world to make custom games for learning and impact. Along the way, we’ve learned a few things about how to make educational games for people all over the world. Here are some things you should think about:
Digital games often reflect the culture around them. At the same time, gamers add their own culture to the games they play by interacting with them. So, if a game’s content doesn’t fit with the culture of its players, it might not be fun to play. This is why it’s important for game designers to think about the cultural setting in which their games will be played.
For example, in a book chapter called “The Culture Driven Game Design Method: Adapting Serious Games to the Players’ Culture,” researchers talk about a study where American and Taiwanese exchange students played a trading simulation game made at an American university in different ways. When American students found out that their actions in the game could cause other players to go bankrupt, they thought this was the main goal of the game and worked hard to make it happen. But when their peers from Taiwan played the game, they focused on keeping other players from going bankrupt. This was a very different way to play than the way their American peers did. Even though the game was the same for both groups, the results were very different because of the unwritten rules that guided their behavior during the game. This is a perfect example of how cultural contexts affect behavior.
By carefully thinking about the culture in which a game will be played through research, playtesting, and other design methods, we can not only avoid unintentional cultural stereotypes, but also avoid making people feel bad by showing them uncomfortable or unfamiliar content.
Celebrate Values in Classroom with the VR
If you want to make a game that does well in a certain international market, it’s not enough to avoid stereotypes and other content that isn’t relevant to that culture. You also need to make an effort to celebrate the values of the players.
This is not an easy thing to do, but there are many examples of commercial games that have done it well. For example, when the multiplayer soccer game Rocket League came out in mainland China, it had exclusive in-game items and cosmetics that were culturally relevant. The game’s way of making money was also changed to be more like other games that were available there.
By highlighting values that are important to different cultures in games, we can build better relationships with players and, in turn, make them more interested in our games. Check out the curriculum and teaching guide below, which was made by the games industry research group Values at Play. It has more ideas for putting values into your game.
Each part of the world has its own language, culture, and content laws. This makes localization a very important part of making any game that wants to be played all over the world.
The goal of localization is to make sure that players have fun and don’t get confused while playing by paying special attention to their culture and staying true to the source material. Of course, this process includes translating all the text in a game to a new language or languages. But localization also includes tasks like changing promotional art assets, porting a game to hardware specific to a certain region, and changing in-game content to fit different cultural norms and/or local laws.
Today, a quick Google search will bring up a long list of game localization companies that have experience translating and localizing games for regions all over the world. However, some game developers prefer to do localization in-house. Gamasutra is a good place to learn more about how a game is made ready for localization.