Teach Our Lesson Plans. We’ve included eight lesson plans suitable for STEM and humanities classes that can be taught in one to two class periods. Each one is based on an NYT VR video, or series of videos, and includes activities for before, during and after the V.R. experience.
Practice Skills. Virtual reality is ripe for practicing a number of academic skills related to STEM and the humanities. You can use the lessons in this guide or the videos on their own to teach students skills like:
Making predictions and observations and drawing conclusions.
Asking media literacy questions.
Having discussions and making claims grounded in text evidence.
Practicing descriptive writing and communicating complex concepts.
Using multiple literacies like reading, viewing and listening.
Building empathy and taking the perspectives of others.
Build Your Own Curriculum. Are you teaching about animal intelligence in biology? Reading a novel about refugees in language arts? Learning about the civil rights movement in social studies? You can use any of the lesson plans in this guide to supplement a unit you’re already teaching. Here are a few ideas:
Use a video as an engaging hook at the beginning of a unit.
Take a “virtual field trip” to build background knowledge on a culture, place, people, historical event or scientific concept you are studying.
Make what you’re learning relevant to the real world by inviting students to connect what they’re studying in class to a VR video.
You can also draw on the themes and learning strategies in this guide to create your own lesson plans or units around an NYT VR film of your choice. Find many more 360 videos to use in your classroom in the 360 Video stream or the New York Times YouTube channel.
Learning Strategies for V.R.
We suggest a few teaching ideas to get the most out of virtual reality with your students.
Roles and Goals. Virtual reality is experiential; it asks viewers not just to watch the film, but also to participate in it. By giving students roles to play (astronauts, anthropologists, museum curators, deep-sea divers) and having focused objectives (collecting data, sharing insights, making recommendations), teachers provide students with a mission to decode their experiences.
Partners. Pairing students creates a community of trust, develops empathy and deepens experience sharing. It’s also useful if you have a limited number of viewing devices. Ensure that each partner has a role in the activity. For example, one student might view the video and share their observations verbally while another student records them.
Exploration and Inquiry. This medium is all about exploration, inquiry and play, so while students will have a learning objective, they should also have plenty of time to follow their curiosities and investigate the new worlds they find themselves in. We suggest students watch the video at least twice: once to explore and again to make specific observations related to their roles and goals.
Journaling. After students view the V.R. video, they should have an opportunity to record their observations, synthesize their ideas and reflect on their overall experience. Each of our lessons includes a journaling opportunity, such as the “If I Were There” and “Notice and Wonder” protocols. Then, students can discuss what they wrote.
Tips for Getting Started With V.R. in the Classroom
From safety precautions to technology requirements, here’s what you’ll need to teach with NYT VR.
A Tool, Not a Curriculum. Virtual reality is not a technology that should replace other teaching resources; instead, it should serve as a complementary tool that can enhance learning across disciplines. As with any new technology being introduced into the classroom, success depends on expectations, an effective strategy and the practical details of how it is being used.