High-tech school brings learning to life with VR

Preparing students for the disrupted, digital world of the future is now part of the curriculum for Ormiston College

Just as brands like Volvo are embracing virtual reality (VR) to encourage customers to experience its vehicles virtually, and JCDecaux is seeing the potential to woo advertisers through virtual tours of their airport touchpoints, some schools are realising the opportunities of embracing innovation and technology. 

In a bid to enhance the way students learn and equip them with the skills to get by in technology driven workplaces of the future, one Brisbane school has developed a high-tech learning environment. 

Ormiston College has created a futuristic Centre for Learning and Innovation set across the largest interactive digital floorspace in Australia, and students have access to fully programmable drones, Australia’s first holographic wearable computer, 3D printers, writeable glass, and a green screen studio to help make science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) projects come to life.

“Today’s world is increasingly complex and fast-paced. This brings new and stimulating opportunities to enhance learning, while at the same time, it requires us to navigate the disruptions that come with phenomena such as globalisation, technological advancements, and the changing nature of work,” said Brett Webster, headmaster, Ormiston College.

VR enables teachers to create tactile learning experiences in many subject areas and year levels previously inconceivable, such as in biology experiments, experiencing real-world work in different professions to help with career readiness, simulating a live audience for public speaking, and providing artificial intelligence (AI) feedback along with 3D spelling and writing practice.

While they haven’t completely given away book learning, there are new possibilities presented by creating a high-tech learning environment. Webster said students can “access information, learn, create, invent and solve problems through design thinking, coding, and robotics activities. They are experiencing new dimensions with virtual reality, multimedia and drone flying ... and of course they continue to enjoy reading books."

The inventory of technology includes the HTC Vive, a VR system that allows users to interact and work in a 3D virtual environment; Oculus Go, the first standalone VR headset that does not require any additional hardware, such as computer or tablet; Tilt Brush, a room-scale 3D painting VR application; and Mindshow where students can make 3D animated movies in VR with their body and voice.

If this is not enough, the school also has programmable drones, Littlebits electronic building blocks to create circuits boards and switches, pocket-sized computer Microbits for coding, Minecraft games, a print lab with two 3D printers, Sphero SPRK balls, and green screen, Design Lab and Maker Space rooms to help STEM projects come to life.

“Through our use and integration of technology, we believe we are empowering our students to be creators of digital content, not just consumers,” Webster said.

And the school has been recognised as an innovator with a slew of awards including four consecutive titles as one of The Educator’s Most Innovative Schools, and Best Use of Technology Education Award (Australian Education Awards) 2018, and is Greater Brisbane’s first Microsoft Showcase School, one of six Australia wide.

Its aim is clear: to embrace the reality of how technology has changed our world.

“Gone are the days where knowledge and industry-specific skillsets are required for a structured ‘career for life’. The world has experienced a rapid acceleration in digital technology. Such advances continue to disrupt and influence the way we live and work," he said.

"The most effective schools have the capacity to respond to these shifts, reimagine the learning process and ensure students are future ready.”

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