Virtual Reality, augmented reality – what is the difference? How can a non- video game playing librarian like myself, incorporate this technology into a library program? My own inclination is to shy away from technology that I don’t understand because I worry how I can help young people utilize that technology. The 2020 Institute session “Virtual and Augmented Reality: Designing Immersive Learning Youth Programs” led by Zachary Stier introduces librarians to the idea of using virtual and augmented reality to educate and enhance the learning experiences of young people.
Augmented Reality is what the game Pokemon Go is. It is interacting with digital elements using a smart device. Virtual Reality is being immersed in an entirely new world. I initially wondered how can video games could be educational because the video games that my sons play, Fortnite and Star Wars Battlefront, do not seem to have much learning potential. To my surprise, I found out that there is untapped educational value to virtual reality. Education students learn about the various types of learning modalities, and Virtual Reality taps into that by helping students connect the topics to real-life and having an emotional connection with them. Many students need the team approach of working together with others, which is possible with virtual reality. Virtual Reality can also be individualized for each participant. Virtual Reality can help students make connections between school learning and the real world. It is one thing to read about the Himalayas, but it is quite another thing to actually climb Mt Everest yourself.
Now that the idea of virtual reality has caught my interest, what equipment do I need? How expensive will this be? What types of programs are possible? Again, being a technology neophyte, I do not have the first clue as to where to start with virtual reality equipment. Stier recommends the Merge Cube and Oculus Go. Oculus Go is a standalone virtual reality headset. When I went to the Oculus website, it said that Oculus Go is no longer available. The new Oculus Virtual Reality headset, Oculus Quest 2, will roll out on October 13, 2020. Merge Cube is augmented reality. It is a device that lets viewers explore artifacts or other objects with the Merge Cube app.
The Oculus Go costs $278.94 on Amazon, and that amount of money can be cost prohibitive for many libraries. Stier mentioned that he applied for several grants to cover the cost of the several Oculus Go headsets. The Merge Cube has a budget friendly price of $19.99 on Amazon. Stier also shared his lesson plans for his Virtual and Augmented Reality programs. The first virtual reality program is called “Limitless,” and this program invites students to explore the many wonders of our planet. This program uses the Oculus Go virtual reality headset plus the National Geographic and Ecosphere apps. Another program called “Back to the Arcade” combined team building activities. Stier featured a couple of augmented reality programs with the Merge Cube that demonstrate the capabilities of the Merge Cube with the appropriate apps. There is an escape room program possible with the Merge cube. Capstone Publishing produces augmented reality books.
I hope you can see the possibilities of augmented and virtual reality programs at your library. My library is in the STEM rich city of Huntsville, AL. Parents and kids are always looking to be on the cutting edge of technology. I hope you are inspired as I am to branch out and try this inventive way to introduce young people to the world!
As part of receiving a Friends of ALSC Institute Scholarship, recipients were asked to submit written pieces on their learnings and experience at #alsc20 to share with members and readers. Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.