3D a virtual reality for WA schools


Students will be teleported into a world of knowledge with new VR headsets. Photo by Giu Vicente on Unsplash

Instead of reaching for a notebook and pen, some WA school children will soon be donning virtual reality headsets to help learn maths and science.

Penrhos College, in Perth’s south, will become the first WA school to use new technology that immerses the students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) through 3D diagrams and complicated problems.

University of Western Australia researchers say the technology, called STEM XR, improves learning STEM subjects by 31 per cent, and 85 per cent of students claimed the program helped them learn.

“This initiative aims to connect students to their course to make it an interactive, engaging experience to allow students to retain the information better,” STEM XR founder and manager Karina Price said.

“VR has been proven to help students in Years 7-10 visualise concepts in their classwork like biological diagrams that wouldn’t be as simple without these tools.”

But some teaching specialists say that technology can disrupt learning.

University of Newcastle education technologies specialist Erica Southgate said that while VR has proved to be useful in the education sector, it presents distractions in the classroom.

“My own research into VR tech for education two years ago lead to improvements across the board in two major case studies, but there are always drawbacks,” Prof Southgate said.

“VR has definitely proven to help students in their learning journey, but things like lack of space to have all students using VR in one classroom could be a safety concern.

“Network and server issues also disrupt the learning flow of the classroom.”

Especially with the ongoing COVID-19 restrictions, Ms Price said “students in isolation can participate in classwork through a VR headset at home.”

Ineffective teaching and student-course disengagement is a government level concern that STEM XR targets.

Programs created to encourage learning were embedded on STEM XR, one being an in-depth look at inner plant workings called Virtual Plant Cell.

As more schools expand into virtual learning, STEM XR will widen their teaching programs and modules further.