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Virtual reality prepares trainee teachers for the classroom

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Published on 29 January 2024

University of Sunderland trainee teachers wearing the VR headsets
University of Sunderland trainee teachers wearing the VR headsets

The next generation of teachers studying at the University of Sunderland are using virtual reality (VR) to help prepare them for their future careers.

The University’s School of Education’s new VR headsets allow its trainee teachers to immerse themselves in a variety of realistic simulations using VR to enhance curriculum opportunities and provide them with an innovative approach to teaching in the classroom. Examples of the simulations include moving through the human body as a piece of food to learn about digestion and skiing when learning about the Arctic in a Geography lesson. 

Describing the headsets, trainee teacher Rhys Williams, who is studying BA (Hons) Primary Education with QTS, said: “The possibilities made available are truly endless.

“My personal view is that these technologies could create very enticing experiences that could be implemented by external providers who specialise in creating and conducting learning experiences, in the same vein as specialist sports coaches conducting PE lessons.”

University of Sunderland lecturer Martin Holt has been instrumental in introducing the VR headsets to the University’s School of Education and, in addition to supporting trainees and academic teaching staff in using the headsets, Martin has visited a number of the University’s partnership schools to introduce the technology to teachers and pupils.

Martin said: “As part of the School of Education’s Lecturer in Residence Scheme, where lecturers go into schools to share best practice and facilitate partnership work between the University and local schools, I have been able to see first-hand how effective the VR headsets are for both primary and secondary pupils.

“For our trainee teachers, the headsets promote high levels of engagement during lectures as they become fully immersed in the content of the sessions.”

Yarm Primary is among the University’s partnership schools trying out the tech.

Year 1 teacher and school mentor Rebecca Gott said: "Pupils thoroughly enjoyed their science-based VR headset session. This approach with hands-on-learning fully engaged pupils and furthered their understanding of a topic which can traditionally be difficult to visualise.”

Vicki Stokes, Associate Head of School for Primary Initial Teacher Training at the University of Sunderland, said: “The introduction of this new technology gives our trainee teachers the opportunity to consider another approach to teaching in the classroom. 

“Martin has provided students and the wider team with an excellent example of how effective these can be when used in a primary classroom. My thanks go to Martin for all his work in developing the use of this resource.” 

Dean of the Faculty of Education and Society at the University, Professor Lynne McKenna MBE, said: “Martin has not only taken this new technology into our partnership schools, he also introduced training sessions for academic teaching staff in the Faculty of Education and Society. Indeed, when I put on a headset, I was transported to Dubai for an interactive Geography lesson! 

“I could immediately see that the applications for this technology are endless. With properly designed teaching and learning lessons, pupils’ learning involvement can be developed through interactive activities encouraging their engagement. Once again, our Initial Teacher Training teams are embracing new technologies to enhance learning and teaching in the classroom.”