I want to start by clarifying that I am not 'experimenting' on my students or doing rogue testing. I approached the guys at Oculus about my ideas and its potential in special educational settings. They've been incredibly supportive and are keen to see how things progress. Before I received the Rift I informed my school's administration about it and what my intentions were and got the OK from them. Their support has been wonderful. I also have been in daily contact and discussion with my school's Autism specialist who has highly developed skills in a myriad of other disabilities including Sensory Processing Disorders. Finally, I have informed and demonstrated the Rift to parents who are involved in School Council, all of whom have children who have ASD.
So how have I approached using the Rift with students? When I first got to test the Rift with Ben Kuchera of Penny Arcade he set an excellent example of how to introduce someone to it so I based a lot of how I use it with my students off of his example.
- Hold just the mask up to the eyes. No strapping over head
- Look left, right, up, and down
- Check for comfort/discomfort. Ask if ready for strapping over head, feeling OK/not scared etc.
- Allow at least 30 seconds for more general movement of head only
- Ask if ready for sound FX/headphones. Allow more time to get used to it
- If applicable, check if ready to use controller to begin moving. Remind that it's ok to stop/tell me if feeling sick or discomforted
- Monitor students closely. Prompt at ~30 second intervals to check if OK
- Finish after ~2 minutes
- Check for any visual signs of discomfort/displacement and remain in seat for another minute to get reoriented
As you an see, students aren't exposed to the Rift for extended periods of time and there are numerous checks in place.
You may have already seen from my previous post about the Oculus that I have had some very positive results with a student. What's been wonderful is that there have been a number of other positive results and observations when using the Rift. Rather than go into long and detailed stories about what I've experienced when working with my students, I'll provide some relatively concise dot-points.
A tool for anger/mood management:
- In a simple sense, I had a student who removed himself from a sports activity because he knew he was angry and could hurt someone. I could see he was in an elevated state of anger and having used the Rift with him before I was keen to see if it could help. The program I used with him was Blue Marble, an experiential example where calm music is played as you coast from Earth to the Moon in a space capsule. After using the program for around 3 minutes he removed the headset. I asked him how he felt and he identified that he felt much calmer and ready to return to class. His breathing had visibly calmed and the level of agitation in his face was visibly unnoticeable.
Most kids don't get VR sickness!:
- This has been a rather interesting discovery. I have been amazed over and over how my students get right into exploring worlds like Riftoon and simply don't experience VR sickness like most adults do. I am not sure why this is. Could it be that because kids are exposed to so many different visual stimuli in the form of TV, gaming tablets etc. that their eyes are developing in a different way? I'm keen to hear from anyone who may have research backed insight into this.
VR as a tool for meditation:
- I've not explored this in great detail yet but I have some plans in the works. I got a hold of Walking Man last week and have been playing with it myself. I've also had my school's Autism specialist explore the program and its potential uses. Here's some of our thoughts/observations.
- -The slow movement of the horizon from left to write is quite clever. It's actually really useful for training kids in tracking of eye movements, such as with reading and writing.
-The presence of the physical body form in the meditation position is an excellent visual queue for setting and correcting one's position. What's interesting is how it encourages the relaxation of neck and should muscles
-The use of the echo/delay via a microphone has a lot of potential, especially in the theta/delta states that are brought on under such circumstances. This could be quite useful in conjunction with messages of self-affirmation, such as 'I am calm', 'I am relaxed' etc.
There's still a lot to be investigated (obviously) and I'm really excited to see what will be discovered. I'm in talks with a programmer now about a potential research project using the Rift. I hope to form a research team so that some authentic data and results can be collected and could mean that young lives are made better!
Have a great week!