VR + maths = mind blowing!
This article first appeared in the Interface Magazine May 2018 edition and has been republished with the kind permission of the editors of Interface. You can see the rest of the great articles here. Known for his digital innovation and creativity in teaching, the Microsoft HoloLens team knew Subash Chandar K was just the person to try out Virtual Reality with his maths class – and the results were amazing.
“Virtual Reality is something that’s interested me for a long time – and not just VR but Augmented Reality (AR) and Mixed Reality (MR), as well,” said Subash Chandar K, Curriculum Leader of Mathematics and Statistics at Ormiston Senior College in Auckland.
“I can see in 3D space. I’ve tried so many different ways to explain my perspective to students but with varying success – it’s quite challenging. Students struggle with concepts like volume and area. I tried creating 3D models with SketchUp, and turning them upside down and looking at them in different angles. They started to see but not as well as I wanted.”
Subash is a Microsoft Innovative Educator (as well as a ‘Sphero Hero’, one of only 18 in the world!). He describes being a MIE as “the biggest catalyst in transforming my perspective on teaching.”
“It’s opened me to what other educators in other countries are doing. I’m chipping in and contributing where I can. I think HoloLens was looking for maths teacher wanting to do something different and knew I was the guy willing to try tech.”
HoloLens is a pair of Mixed Reality smartglasses developed and manufactured by Microsoft. It has see-through holographic lenses that use an advanced optical projection system to generate multi-dimensional full-colour holograms
Excited and engaged
He was provided with four HoloLens kits and some newly-developed apps to try – and asked for feedback.
“There were practical things like how students cope with something on their head and the VR space. But, essentially, it was exploring what could be done with HoloLens and maths.”
Subash wore one headset, while students wore the other three. The system let them see where he was looking, so they could literally follow his eye.
“We looked at 3D shapes and measurements. I could open a box into a net and explore how different sizes and how surface area can be calculated. It was mind blowing, and really got them excited and engaged.
Becoming the norm
“I can see so many possibilities in maths and science, physics, biology, even drama – across all different subjects. I’d like to see VR developed from a makerspace angle – making it a stepping stone, where students can see how things pan out in virtual space before printing products, for example.
“The other day we were measuring things and I put 900 on the board. One student asked what the unit was – if I’d been able to show them the perspective in virtual space, they wouldn’t have needed to ask. Students often struggle to make planes in their heads – they can more easily see what it is from within the virtual environment.
“I see kids afraid to make mistakes on paper, but I feel they’re more confident working in a VR environment, happy to give it a go.
“VR is going to become the norm. But it’s one thing hearing about the technology, I encourage all teachers to experience it.”
Comment from one of Subash’s students:
“We are a generation that learns through examples and visualisation, not explanation and reading, and HoloLens is supportive of this. It helps us rediscover the touch of ingenuity we have lost through the boring, old methods and disconnected learning environments.
“HoloLens inspires critical thinking. It has tremendous potential because it gives us as students so much freedom to experiment, and the only limits are our creativity and imagination. This is not changing what we learn but simply how we learn it, and it may just be the solution to the problems of our education system.”