Walk a Mile in My Virtual Reality Shoes

Dr. David Shin - Middle School Teacher of Science, Director of Middle School BUILD, Robotics, and Coach
It’s simple. Teachers who empathize with their students have better student outcomes.
The problem isn’t that teachers aren’t trying. It’s that human beings are not cognitively capable of empathizing with multiple students all at once. We’re just not hardwired to do that. I tried to solve this problem by designing a tool that could improve teachers’ ability to empathize with their students and to reflect on their interaction with students. 

Virtual reality perspective taking: Teacher Empathy, as defined in my study, is the teacher’s ability to understand the students’ experience in the classroom, and to use that knowledge to improve student learning. In my research study, teachers viewed 360-degree video footage of their classroom through a virtual reality headset, and literally sat in the seat of their students. See below.

The study: I recorded 360-degree videos, using Insta360 Beta 4k camera, from the perspective of students in a range of classroom settings. I filmed everything from music lessons to language and history. Over the course of a few months, I captured exactly what the boys were seeing and hearing in class. Then I used this footage to design tutorials for educators to be viewed through a VR headset, which allowed educators to experience the classroom as boys in an immersive, 360-degree environment. 

The outcome: Results were compelling. After experiencing their classroom as a boy, teachers were able to reflect on their interaction with boys and teaching practices. Rather than reflecting “on-action” after the class was over, teachers were reflecting “in-action” while they were watching themselves teach. One teacher stated: “I did not attend as well, I thought, to my introverted students. I was engaging more with the extroverted students. My quieter, more introverted students were actually making interesting comments and ideas that I missed.” Another teacher stated “I noticed students just sitting. I think that was something that stuck out to me, just the passive nature of sitting and consuming information.” 

In thinking about how virtual reality perspective was different from a traditional video recording, a teacher stated: “The virtual reality headset gives us an ability to access something that we wouldn't otherwise be able to access. It even moves just beyond just filming a class with a traditional 2D video camera because we’re able to see 3D. We can sit there in the seats of the students and move around, and look around.”
emPATH FORWARD: St. Christopher’s School will begin to use this professional learning tool to support their induction program for new teachers. 

It is impossible to reflect on what you didn’t notice in the first place. With virtual reality perspective taking, teachers are now able to view the video as many times as they would like, to improve their ability to understand the lived experience of their students, ultimately to improve learning for every student in our care.  

Want to try? Please contact Dr. David Shin at shind@stcva.org


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