Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Nearpod Goes Virtual

Nearpod, the well known and engaging presentation system, has recently expanded into the world of virtual reality.  For several months, VR-ready presentations have been available in the Nearpod Library and those presentations have been used by many teachers and students with Google Cardboard-type products. However, Nearpod recently introduced their own NearpodVR goggles in a special package for schools.  They launched this new product with a grant program available to select schools that submitted video entries to earn the grant.

I am fortunate that I have an existing collaborate partnership with the Instructional Technology Coach at Owens Cross Roads Elementary School in Madison County (Alabama).  Davina Mann led the grant submission for the school and she recently presented a full Nearpod workshop that I was lucky enough to attend.  After the obligatory, but incredibly valuable, introduction to Nearpod, she introduced the new VR presentations.  If you have experienced any VR system, such as Google Cardboard, there are some similarities.  In fact, the are even some Nearpod-branded Google Cardboard headsets out there in the world.  But Nearpod realized that these were not rugged enough for the school environment.  They seemed to realize that there was an answer out there.

First, they began by creating, and partnering with other creators to create, a huge collection of immersive VR content.  A quick search of the Nearpod library for "VR" resulted in too many VR inclusive lessons to count.  The content variety is quite good and there are many free lessons, as well as those that are available through a Nearpod subscription or individual purchase.

Next, Nearpod realized that the cardboard versions of VR headsets would not withstand the daily grind of the school environment.  They also knew that school budgets eliminated the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive level of headsets.  That is why they have released the NearpodVR headsets.  The resources work without the headsets but the experience is much more immersive with them.

After spending a couple of hours playing with several of these VR lessons, I am convinced that this type of interactive multimedia will become more and more prevalent in education.  Nearpod has developed a great implementation of an educational VR experience that will engage students.  The quality of the resources is impressive and so many of them are free or extremely affordable that teachers will be able to easily locate something that can be immediately incorporated into the curriculum.

Check out the Nearpod VR collection by going to http://app.nearpod.com.


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