Google Cardboard in PE

Google Cardboard (1)Last week I purchased a pair of Google Cardboard. I first heard about them at a Leading Digital Schools conference in Melbourne last year and didn’t think too much of it. But with the growth in virtual reality (VR) over the last 8-12 months I thought I would check them out! If you haven’t seen or heard about Google Cardboard, essentially it is a headset made of thick and reasonably durable cardboard, that turns your smart phone into a very affordable virtual reality device. VR allows you to explore media like never before by placing you into an immersive 360 degree environment.

The technology involved is still fairly young, and you have to consider that Google Cardboard was designed to encourage and promote developers to explore the concept of VR. With that in mind, it did get me thinking about virtual reality applications in physical education. But before we get onto that, I wanted to share my (almost) three year old using Google Cardboard for the first time in an app that has her snorkeling around a wrecked ship:

How do I see these being relevant and usable in PE? Being limited to only really “viewing” at this point in time (there is a button that can be mapped with certain uses such as running faster or selecting an item) the possibilities are definitely finite. But there are still things I think could be explored.

Some of the best applications on Google Cardboard at the moment involve watching documentaries in VR, with the addition of binaural audio (think VR for your ears – you hear all things around you, behind, in front, to the side and below you). I would love to see someone capture some footage from a Football World Cup Final, or the Olympic 100m final, where you could be in the crowd and experience the environment like you were really there! My Level 3 PE students are currently working through AS 3.5 which is about exploring a significant sporting event and its impact on New Zealand society. If they could be placed in that environment where they could look around and explore everything as if they were really there, it would provide a really unique and meaningful experience that could translate into richer critical thinking.

Do you remember the book “Magic School Bus – Inside the Human Body”?! Imagine being shrunk down into a vessel that could go around exploring inside the human body and getting a closer look at the different systems? We could surf deoxygenated blood through the vena cava down into the heart, or bungy jump down the trachea, then explore our lungs!

I think as developers explore and learn a little more, we may see some very cool applications we could use in PE. For now though, I will continue snorkeling, riding roller coasters and watching some very cool documentaries!



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Carl Condliffe is a Health and PE teacher passionate about using technology to create authentic and meaningful learning experiences for his students.

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