11 October 2016

From Descartes to Da Vinci – Virtual Reality hits the classroom!

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The Technology department has now started using Virtual Reality (VR) in the classroom. This year, the school purchased a number of virtual reality headsets and associated equipment, and students have enjoyed everything from Art to Philosophy from a very different perspective!

The innovation team at the school has actively been following developments in VR, and invested in an Oculus Rift Developers’ Kit a few years ago. The school then purchased a set of Google Glass, and students and staff alike have been waiting for a more financially attainable option to come to the market. With the launch of the Samsung Gear VR, the Director of Innovation, Graeme Lawrie, felt that VR was starting to become affordable and realistic for schools to invest in.

Graeme commented ‘This is a very exciting initiative for our students and staff. We are enjoying using the technology to allow students to experiment with painting in 3D, and then walk through their artwork, whilst in Philosophy, students have been putting Descartes’ dream argument to the test!’

In his Meditations (1641), the French philosopher Rene Descartes put forward one of the most celebrated thought experiments in the history of philosophy. Is it conceivable, he asked, that I might be dreaming all the time, or that I am being misled by a powerful and evil being? What if our life is nothing more than a simulation? At Sevenoaks, we used the VR kit to great effect in order to vividly experience this alarming possibility. The virtual reality headset provided a way of the students being able to see just how immersive and ‘real’ a simulation could feel. Blurring the boundaries between reality and illusion, the experience engendered a provocative discussion, and helped bring philosophy back into life. One student commented ‘It’s amazing to think that we can test, and understand more about, these centuries-old theories with the latest modern technology. It has brought a whole new meaning to Philosophy for me!’

The options are endless said Mr Lawrie ‘.. everything from Ancient Egypt, to exploring the undersea world in Geography, to learning a modern language or walking through the human brain – for students this is by far the most engaging, and potentially enjoyable way to learn!. Virtual Reality will become an integral part of the future classroom, future workplace, and inevitably our future lifestyle, and we are very excited to be part of this innovation in its earliest form.’

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