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iPads or virtual reality glasses? – Savonlinna Teacher Training School develops virtual reality school

In the future, students will learn how to drive a car, fly an air plane or perform a surgery on a patient in safe, risk-free virtual reality. Virtual reality is quickly expanding to various sectors of life, including schools. This year, the Savonlinna Teacher Training School starts to develop a virtual reality school, and some of the school’s pupils will get virtual reality glasses to supplement the iPads they are working with already.

Together with their teachers and teaching students, the school’s pupils will create material for the virtual cultural path of the City of Savonlinna. Concrete areas of content creation include the Savonlinna region’s sources of livelihood such as tourism, cultural environments such as the Olavinlinna Castle, the region’s most important environments relating to nature, for example Linnasaari and the Lusto Forest Museum, as well as the STEAM cluster, which is short for science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics. In the first phase of the project, a learning environment filmed with 360 cameras relating to the Olavinlinna Castle will be created.

Virtual school focused on content creation

The Savonlinna Teacher Training School is Finland’s first unified basic education school that uses tablet computer to an extent which has already replaced traditional textbooks. Now the school is considering a large-scale introduction of virtual reality glasses. In the virtual reality school, pupils will learn about virtual content production, which reflects the goals of the new basic education core curriculum. In virtual reality, pupils can work in environments that simulate reality.

The project supports the implementation of diverse learning entities, which are included in the new curriculum. The project also open-mindedly carries out activities that are in line with the new conception of learning in which pupils are seen as active content creators and learners who brainstorm, plan and produce learning environments for virtual reality. Learning focuses on progressive inquiry and project-based working. According to the Savonlinna Teacher Training School’s Headmaster Mikko Ripatti, learning skills and workflows relating to information and communication technology, as well as interaction skills involving working life and key stakeholders are of key importance. The project also seeks to enhance pupil participation and their belief in their own abilities.

New information about using virtual glasses in teaching

The pedagogical starting point of the research and development project is to strengthen content creator oriented pedagogy. The objective is for pupils to learn to create content independently and to adopt the knowledge and skills they gain during content creation. Also for the first time in Finland, the project studies how the use of virtual glasses and virtual reality in teaching affects pupils’ learning motivation and learning outcomes. According to Professor Laura Hirsto, research evidence relating to the use and benefits of virtual glasses in teaching and learning remains scarce.

Digital era requires new pedagogy

Digitalisation and the shift of the economic structure in an increasingly service-oriented direction challenges the structures of learning and education alike.  There is a need to create increasingly high-quality learning and higher expertise with less and less resources. Furthermore, thanks to PISA assessments, the development of teacher training and the school system as a whole have become focus areas also elsewhere in the world. Enhancing the quality of teaching and learning outcomes requires a change in the operating methods. However, mere investments in information and communication technology are not enough alone.

The Koulu 360 - virtuaalikoulua rakentamassa (‘School 360 - building a virtual school’) project is partially funded by state subsidies allocated for the National Board of Education for the development of innovative learning environments. The project’s website (in Finnish) is available at: http://snor.fi

For further information, please contact:

Leading Headmaster Mikko Ripatti, Savonlinna Teacher Training School, tel. +358 50 540 1016, mikko.ripatti(at)uef.fi

Professor Laura Hirsto, School of Applied Educational Science and Teacher Education , Savonlinna, tel. +358 50 380 4674, laura.hirsto@uef.fi

Lecturer Sanna Metsälä, tel. +358 50 4400130, sanna.metsala(at)uef.fi

IT Coordinator Aleksi Komu, tel. +358 50 567 2458, aleksi.komu@uef.fi