UK schools taking pupils to new worlds with immersive tech

Croydon High School

Croydon High has provided an all-round education for girls since its establishment in 1874, combining tradition with a forward-looking approach.

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Over the course of the 2014/15 academic year, various schools across the country have customised their school with immersive environments. These areas allow pupils (and teachers) to be whisked away to limitless places without ever leaving the classroom.

Croydon High School

Croydon High School has taken the plunge into immersive learning technology as part of their Junior Resource Centre. According to the Telegraph in April 2015, Croydon High staff installed a ‘4D room’ wherein pupils are engrossed with various light, sound and projection effects to take pupils to any time or place”. One example of success has been Year 4’s reading a novel about the Lebanese Civil War; here, teachers project images of the harrowing war zone and supplied noises of gunfire, shelling and the impact of bullets.

“Stepping into the immersion space was like opening a window into the heroine’s world, and allowed our girls to identify with what they were reading,” says Sophie Bradshaw, head of the school’s Junior department. “It was no surprise that they then wrote poetry filled with vivid images and emotion.”

Last year also saw CHS’ Year 2 visit Australia without leaving the school grounds. As explained on the school’s official blog, pupils were greeted by teachers Mrs Rowe and Mrs Redmond, who were in character as cabin crew members. After “a relaxed beverage in the departure lounge”, the children boarded flight DZ 659, all a part of the immersive 4D room. Here, they were walked through flight safety procedures, the sound of an aircraft take-off was played, and they were then surrounded by projected clouds.

After enjoying a pleasant (and presumably shorter-than-real) flight to Australia, pupils disembarked into Sydney Airport. They then visited a series of immersive environment landmarks: Sydney Opera House, Bondi Beach (the ice creams were real), the Great Barrier Reef and Ayers Rock.

This year also saw Year 2 pupils engaged in a Creative Writing Day utilising the 4D room.

Someries Infant School

Meanwhile, pupils in Luton, Bedfordshire have been using their Immersive Learning Centre to walk through rainforests, fly on magic carpets and travel into space. According to Heart, Someries Infant School were the first to gain the innovative technology, which was launched on 14th October 2013.

The Centre was erected over the course of three weeks, turning the school’s ICT suite into a space featuring laptops, specialist lighting, projectors, motion-sensor technology and surround-sound speakers.

"We are absolutely delighted with our Immersive Learning Centre,” said headteacher Jenny Meara to Heart. “We were trialling it a few weeks in the summer term and it has been a big hit with both pupils and teachers. Now all children will get the opportunity to experience this innovative way of learning.

“You can talk about the rainforest or the North Pole, but this technology allows us to give the children a sense of what it is really like, which inspires them to be more creative and imaginative. They remember more of what they have learnt because they are actually experiencing it. This unique learning space which will help to improve pupils’ performances. In the long term we intend to lease it to other schools making Someries Infant a hub for sharing best practice."

According to the school: “The Immersive Learning Centre enables us to ‘take’ children to previously impossible places in their learning, from an enchanted forest to a tiger-dwelling jungle to being chased by Vikings or swimming with dolphins! Complete with its own spectacular interactive floor, our Immersive Learning Centre has the ability to quite simply become anywhere or anything imaginable!”

Simms Cross Primary School

One Cheshire school have adopted immersive technology in order to honour their IT technician, who died in 2014.  Simms Cross Primary School in Widnes spent £22,000 developing the area, which has been dedicated to IT technician Rob Gourlay. As reported by Runcorn and Widnes World in July 2015, the new space has been christened The Gourlay Suite, and features projection onto three walls and the floor.

“Children become totally immersed,” said headteacher Lesley Feakes. “We created a Vikings scene and they felt like they were being invaded. It brings things to life. We have children here with autism and special needs, and this room can create a sensory environment which will have a calming influence on them.

“It has lots of uses, [such as giving] children the experience of being in different countries and stimulate their writing.”

Money for the sensory-learning space was raised by Michelle Mulqueen and the parent teacher association (PTA), with Child Bereavement UK helping to host an elephant’s tea party celebrating the opening on the amazing space.

For more information on immersive environments, visit the IMS Guide 2015/16 page.

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