Our recent article “Will Virtual Reality Drive Deeper Learning?” provides a broad survey of the applications of VR in education, but if you’re looking for a simple way to try something like this out in your classroom, 360-degree videos are readily available on both YouTube and Facebook. You can play with them in most desktop browsers by dragging your mouse to move the image around, or watch on a mobile device for a more immersive experience. For the deluxe version, you can strap a smartphone into viewer goggles—these can be purchased relatively cheaply, or printed on cardboard and folded together for a DIY option. You can find both options at the Google Cardboard website.
Ruby Bridges: 6 Years Old and Desegregating a School (02:48)
The New York Times has been a leader in the 360-degree video surge, with its Daily 360 series. This deeply compelling piece caught our eye with the way it uses narration from Ruby’s teacher and stitches together archival photos with current 360-degree footage to absorb you in the story. (Best for: social studies teachers and anyone who cares about history.)
Virtual Guided Tour of Paris: Louvre & Palais Royal (05:36)
Immersive video seems tailor-made for students to virtually visit museums or landmarks that would be prohibitively expensive to physically travel to. Want to share the design and history of the Louvre with your students on no budget? Start here with local tour guide Frédéric Gourdet, then search “Louvre” on YouTube with the “360º” filter on to build your own playlist of museum galleries or famous art pieces. (Best for: French teachers, history teachers, and travel buffs.)
Explore the Solar System: 360 Degree Interactive Tour! (04:40)
Why stop at Paris? You can take your students to outer space with this animated 360-degree video from educational video creator Crash Course. It’s a scientifically accurate tour of the solar system narrated by Crash Course’s astronomy host, Phil Plait. There are more than a dozen visual Easter eggs to delight science fiction aficionados. (Best for: science teachers and sci-fi fans.)
One World, Many Stories: Jordan (04:05)
Nonprofit Global Nomads Group has a mission of building connections across borders for kids around the world, and they make use of the empathy-building capabilities of VR to allow viewers to walk in the shoes of young people from other places. In this clip, explore the world of a differently abled teenager in Jordan. (Best for: high school ELA and social studies teachers.)
Rhomaleosaurus: Back to Life in Virtual Reality (03:37)
We recommend a mobile device for this one—nothing beats the wow factor of having a prehistoric sea dragon swim by your head. This collaboration between Google Arts & Culture and the Natural History Museum in London brings a Jurassic beast to life and offers an environmental call to action at the end. You can also find the Girrafatitan as part of the #PreviouslyOnEarth series. (Best for: elementary science teachers and dinosaur lovers.)
We’re just beginning to understand the uses and implications of virtual reality in education, and it’s worth noting that true headset-enabled VR experiences come with a warning label of potential emotional and physical side effects. But it’s relatively easy and risk-free to bring just a taste into your classroom with 360-degree videos. You won’t get the 3D experience of fully immersive computer-generated VR, but there is some intriguing content that can make for great classroom experiences.