Poznań teachers used virtual reality and games to learn math and English

Through them, students learned math and English in an imaginary world, learned the secrets of geometric solids in stellar space, and practiced words in a virtual apartment. The cyberpunk world of Half-Life: Alyx was used for some of the activities. Contrary to appearances, the initiative to take courses in virtual reality did not come from the students.

– None of us had worn such glasses before, it was the first such experience, amazing both for us and for the students. We entered their world, they received it very well, they ask for more – says Marta Sobańska-Wisła, one of the four teachers who, in connection with the coronavirus epidemic, gave virtual lessons to students primary school n°33 and high school n°33. 33 in Poznan. The youngest learned to describe their breakfast in the virtual kitchen in English and even had the chance to practice – one of the teachers turned into a game character and showed them the next moves in the mirror. The teachers also took the time to discuss with the students the best ways to prepare the house for lessons – the lesson was called “Brain-friendly space”.

Learn geometry in the cyberpunk world of “Half-Life: Alyx”

For some, geometry seems boring, but it is definitely more interesting when discovering the vertices and edges of solids in the universe of the cyberpunk game “Half-Life: Alyx”. This is where Agnieszka Rose-Algierska used the objects she found to explain individual figures and drew them with a light marker in space. For the first mathematics lessons in virtual reality in Poland, Rose-Algierska was nominated for the title of “Educator of the Year” during the plebiscite under the patronage of the Ministry of Digitization and the GovTech Polska program, organized by the Brainly.pl portal.


Geometry lesson in space during virtual reality lessons in a school in Poznań

Photo: Press documents

– It was a test so far, but if the start of the school year is extended, we will want to do such classes even twice a week – says director Daniel Banaszewski. – OFFshot, one of the companies that creates promotional material for us, asked us if we would like to use virtual reality for our courses. We were rented the equipment for two days, so we had an evening to learn how to use it, the next day there were virtual lessons – adds the director. Everything was done courtesy of Planet VR, provided the devices and trained teachers who volunteered to run unusual classes.

Lessons from the coronavirus outbreak, Poznań school does better than TVP

Banaszewski admits they were inspired by the initiative of American professor Charles Coomber, who teaches at a school in San Diego, California, and recently used the “Half-Life: Alyx” game to teach math. – He recorded the lessons and we performed them live. We are the first school in Poland to have decided to broadcast such classes, maybe even the first in the world, although it is difficult to say – he says.

– Now we inspire others, we get very positive news from other schools all over Poland – adds Banaszewski.

Inspiration will certainly come in handy, due to the coronavirus outbreak, for several weeks Polish teachers and students have been trying to cope with the new situation of teaching and participating in them remotely. The Ministry of Education presented only general guidelines, with principals and teachers trying to respond as much as possible to the new – often limited – needs. Polish television has recently tried to help schools, unfortunately with rather poor results. The “School with TVP” format was prepared with the upcoming eighth grade exams in mind, unfortunately there was no idea and a suitable workshop. The programs were recorded in a hurry, anyway, and the role of lecturers was played by random teachers delegated by the school board to prepare the television lessons. The pressure of cameras and time meant that the programs turned out to be full of errors, which was eagerly pointed out by commentators on social media. It is a pity that TVP did not come up with a perfect solution which has just been tested by the people of Poznań.

The director of an innovative school in Poznań wants to create a room in the building within two years, equipped with equipment for daily virtual reality lessons. – The cost is very high, so it could not be for all classes, but we would like classes to be able to benefit from such an experience at least once a month. Especially biology or geography lessons. We are looking for someone who, at least partially, could sponsor the construction of such a hall – informs Banaszewski.

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