Understanding By Design Lesson

Retrieved from

This post is a designed unit of instruction for an Arts Audio/Visual Career and Technical Education class in which students will create 360-degree, immersive virtual work sites for other CTE students to “visit.” I am using Wiggins and McTighe’s framework for planning called Understanding by Design to implement my Innovation Plan. This design model guides the instructor to identify learning outcomes first and work backward to identify learning activities that will elicit the desired outcomes.


Unit Title: Virtual Work Sites in the CTE Classroom

Established Goals

Learners will be able to coordinate and create a 360-degree virtual work site environment for CTE students to explore.

Essential Questions to be Considered:

  • What is 360-degree photography?
  • What equipment is necessary to create 360-degree virtual environments?
  • What is the difference between 360-degree photography and virtual reality?

Desired Understandings:

  • Technical skills associated with taking 360-degree photographs, e.g. lighting, tripod
  • Elements of project management
  • Concept of backward planning to ensure project success
  • How creating 360-degree virtual work site environments can be beneficial to CTE students

Students will know:

  • Technology equipment necessary for producing 360-degree photographs
  • Best practices for shooting in 360 degrees.

Students will be able to:

  • Communicate and Collaborate effectively with project stakeholders
  • Capture quality 360-degree images
  • Write a description of each photograph that details
    • Date and location of the photo shoot
    • Process for setting up the shoot with company representatives (special considerations regarding safety, protecting privacy, etc.
  • Create a portfolio of photographs and descriptions.



Performance Tasks

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.”–Students will develop a step-by-step plan for the shoot. The process should detail how initial contact was made with the company to receive permission to shoot on site through the posting of the 360-degree photos with explanations on an ePortfolio.

Lights, camera, action–Students will create and share effective 360-degree photographs of real-world job sites that end users can explore.

Additional Evidence

  • Written samples of letters to companies asking permission to photograph job site.
  • Quiz
  • Check list of technology and equipment necessary to complete task
  • rubric-aided evaluation of other teams’ portfolios

Self Assessment

  • Self-assess individual 360-degree photographs
  • self-assess ePortfolio
  • Reflect on the most challenging aspect of the project and how you would approach it differently in the future.



The learning experiences listed below follow Wiggins and McTighe’s “WHERETO” model for implementing instructional planning.

  • Begin with the question: How might CTE students “visit” real-world work sites without physically traveling to them?     H
  • Introduce the Essential Questions and preview the performance tasks learners will be instructed to complete.     W
  • Provide examples of 360-degree photography of real-world job sites.     W, H
  • Introduce specific equipment needed to complete learning activities.    E-1
  • Present example template of letter to company, which will be used to introduce the project and ask permission to shoot on site.     E-1
  • Review and discuss with other students your and their letters to company representatives.     E-2
  • Revise letters.     R
  • Each student designs a portfolio (using Google Sites) on which they will post their 360-degree photographs.     E, T
  • Conduct a class discussion in which students have the opportunity to suggest criteria that should be included in the portfolio rubric.     T
  • Students apply the class-created rubric to their own portfolio for self assessment.     E-2
  • Students exchange links to their portfolio with three other students to assess using the class-created rubric.     E-2
  • Students compose a written reflection on the process of the entire project. Include what they will do differently in the future.     R


Understanding by Design vs. the 3-Column Table

My two most recent assignments in the Digital Learning and Leading masters program at Lamar University provided me the opportunity to work with two different frameworks for designing instructional units: Fink’s 3-Column Table and Wiggins and McTighe’s Understanding by Design. Both models utilize the backward design process in which the process starts at the end–learning goals (Fink)/desired results (Wiggins, McThighe) and works “back” toward assessments and learning activities. Each model has its unique strengths. I particularly like the 3-column table’s focus on the situational factors to consider when designing a lesson. Often, the context plays an important role for how successful the unit of study will be. Factors such as meeting time, class size, resources, characteristics of the learners and teachers are vitally important to bear in mind when planning.

Understanding by Design guides the lesson planner more deliberately than the 3-Column Table does. Specifically, in Stage 3, the Learning Plan, the designer is tasked with thinking through each learning activity and identifying how each will benefit the learner. To me this is a crucial step in examining one’s lesson planning. Using this WHERETO checklist of learning activities ensures that the design will:

  • W let the learners know where the unit is headed and why
  • H hook students into the learning and hold their attention
  • E equip learners with the tools and know-how to meet the performance goals
  • R provide for numerous opportunities to reflect and revise
  • E allow students to have chances to evaluate their progress and self-assess
  • T reflect individual talents, interests, styles and needs
  • O be organized to optimize deep understanding

I appreciate this step-by-step process that the UbD model provides and I think it is better suited for helping me to carry out my innovation plan. With it’s emphasis on giving students the opportunity to demonstrate their individual talents, interests and styles, it reminds me a lot of COVA–giving students Choice, Ownership and Voice through Authentic learning opportunities (Harapnuik).


Wiggins, G. & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by design (expanded second ed.). Alexandria, Virginia: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Fink, L. D. (2003). A self-directed guide to designing courses for significant learning. Creating Significant Learning Experiences: An Integrated Approach to Designing College Courses. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Course Design with the 3-Column Table


I jump at the chance to use technology to improve learning whenever I see an opportunity. The course I’m currently enrolled in for the Digital Leading and Learning Masters program at Lamar University is called Creating Significant Learning Environments. This course has provided me with an opportunity to strategically think through how I, as a district administrator, would plan a unit for teachers and students in the area of Career and Technical Education. In thinking about this unit, I started with the end in mind—a far-reaching objective that has the potential to significantly change how we facilitate learning for CTE students. My Big Hairy Audacious Goal is to:

“The learner will use 360-degree photographic environments and resources to explore real-world job sites and share these environments in the CTE classroom.

What follows is are documents, the templates of which were created by L. Dee Fink and Dwayne Harapnuik, that have been instrumental in my planning process.

Learning Environment and Situational Factors

Context of the Learning Situation
Generally, 25 students comprise a high school CTE classroom. Classes meet for 90 minutes every other day (block scheduled). Classes are primarily taught live, but, being that our district is one-to-one, there is a perfect opportunity to introduce blended elements to the class. Students have access to a plethora of technology tools. CTE students are expected to earn a state-recognized certification upon completion of a CTE pathway (at least two courses for three or more credits). In addition to these district expectations, there is a societal expectation for students to graduate from high school college and career ready.

Nature of the Subject
Career and Technical Education courses are by and large practical in nature. They focus on preparing students for the workforce using the latest methods and resources prescribed by industry.

Characteristics of the Learners
Student learners in my district vary greatly in demographic factors. The district is comprised of approximately 215,000 students, 40,000 of which are enrolled in a CTE course. With such a large sample, you can imagine that there is a wide range of socio-economic, personal, cultural, and family situations. CTE studens approach the couses offered generally in one of two ways: 1. They are taking the course as an elective because they have some interest in it, but might not have the room in their schedules to take an entire pathway; 2. They are actively preparing for a career in the industry their pathway is preparing them for.

Characteristics of the Teacher
For the most part, the CTE instructors in my district are eager to learn more about the content of their subject, and they are constantly seeking out ways to improve their teaching craft. One of the interesting (sometimes challenging) things about CTE is that the teachers fall in to two camps: longtime educators or folks who have recently entered the teaching profession from industry. Those who have been teaching for many years know very well how to manage a classroom, but they might not be as up-to-date on the latest trends of the industry. Conversely, the new teacher straight from industry is up to speed on the latest industry trends, but he or she might not be as comfortable running a class full of high school students as the teacher who has been doing it for a while. As an administrator, my goal is to build upon their strengths and provide or facilitate training where an instructor might be lacking.

Formulating Significant Learning Goals

A year or more after this course is over, I want and hope that students will reflect upon the process that they undertgook in this course and continue to leverage technology to enhance their educational opportunities.

Foundational Knowledge
Learners will analyze how building and using immersive virtual environments can impact the learning opportunities in the CTE classroom.

Application Goals
Learners will evaluate the best technology tools for creating virtual worksite environments. Furthermore, learners will create and share virtual environments with technology tools.

Integration Goals
Learners will visualize how to best virtually represent work-place environments and equipment. They will also compare the virtual environments they create with real-world physical workplace environments.

Human Dimensions Goals
Students will learn the choices they make around they technology they employ will have a direct impact on how they themselves and fellow students interact with their virtual environment creations.

Caring Goals
Designing a virtual world requires one to put himself in the shoes of another and consider how others might learn best. This action involves empathy. Additionally, a benefit to creating virtual environments means they will be available to those students who might not have the opportunity to visit a real-world, physical worksite for any number of reasons.

Learning-How-to-Learn Goals
It is my hope that this unit will allow students to reflect on creating environments that will help them and their peers have access to environments that will augment their learning experiences. By constantly reviewing the feedback they receive from their peers and instructors, they can continue to refine their work.


Fink, L. D. (2003) A Self Directed Guide to Designing Courses for Significant Learning. Retrieved from

Learning Philosophy

Learning is a personal endeavor. Each of us can probably articulate a set of conditions that are optimal for us to engage in learning. For example, I prefer complete quiet in a well-lit room with a large clean desk on which to spread out papers and view my computer monitors. My daughter is similar to me, although she insists she can listen to music while studying. She cannot. My wife and son, on the other hand, seem to study best in a chaotic environment. When they are engaged in learning something new, they often will have the television on (my wife a drama; my son a sporting event). Both will have their phones nearby keeping an eye on texts and social media. My wife might even take an occasional break to work on a Sudoku puzzle. I detail all of this because it demonstrates how different we all are when it comes to learning.


When analyzed independently, I see the plausibility in each of the major learning theories: behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism. I don’t think it can be proven that one is right and the others wrong. Each has elements of truth, and surely reflect the way human beings learn. Perhaps it depends on the type of learning that the learner is engaged in that explains how that person is best able to accomplish the learning.

For example, a behavioral approach might best explain the learning processes that require muscle memory such as welding a circular pipe. Behaviorism emphasizes that learning happens best by doing. Repetition and practice are necessary for learning to take root. Also, with behaviorism, reinforcement is a strong motivator (successfully welding the pipe that holds is a positive reinforcer while a weld that breaks being a negative reinforcer). Behaviorism also holds that the potential for learning is greater when the objectives are clear. On the surface, all of these attributes sound like reasonable approaches to successful learning. It also sounds very similar to the way many schools operate today. I know that one of the first things an appraiser looked for upon entering my classroom to conduct an observation was whether or not I had the lesson’s objective printed clearly on the board.

With its focus on how individuals come to know something, Cognitivism is an attractive learning theory for several reasons, too. First, there is an emphasis on well-organized and clearly structured instruction. Cognitivism takes into account the learner’s prior knowledge and the fact that each learner brings a different perception of the environment to the act of learning.

Constructivism departs from behaviorism and cognitivism in a major way: whereas behaviorism and cognitivism are objectivistic, meaning that the world is real and external to the learner. The goal of instruction in these two theories is to “map the structure of the world onto the learner. Whereas Constructivists believe that knowledge “is a function of how the individual creates meaning from his or her own experiences.” The Constructivist does not deny the real world, but rather claims that it’s the learner’s perception of the world that activates learning. So, to take the falling tree in the forest adage, the behaviorist and cognitivist would say it makes a sound. The Constructivist does not deny that the falling tree makes a sound, but the important thing is the sound it makes to the lumberjack.

As I stated in the beginning, learning is a personal endeavor. This doesn’t apply only to the external conditions we learn best in, but it also applies to our individual perceptions of the world and how new experiences jive with the prior knowledge we have. While I can relate to aspects of each learning theory, the importance of the individual’s mind working in concert with the external world to create meaning resonates most with me; therefore, I consider myself a constructivist.

Creating Significant Learning Environments

If you were to ask me what the most important characteristic of a good teacher is, I would tell you without hesitation that it is the ability to make a student want to learn.


It has been said many times, but it bears repeating: We live in a world of constant change. The fact that knowledge and the way we put that knowledge to use is changing so rapidly, demands that we think differently about how we educate students—or more appropriately—how we set the conditions that are optimal for their education. It is or should be every educator’s goal to stoke passion and encourage imagination in the lives of his or her students. In their book, A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change, authors Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown offer some practical and informed insight into the ways teachers in classrooms across America can best impact their students in a positive way. As I think about the most effective way to create a significant learning environment (CSLE), I will look to incorporate the insights provided by Thomas and Brown.

What follows is my first attempt to create a significant learning environment by recognizing the components of this learning approach as identified by Dr. D. Harapnuik. Furthermore, I will weave into the explanation of my learning environment the tenets put forward by Thomas and Brown.

I don’t think I’m espousing a revolutionary thought when I say the focus of a learning environment should be on the learner, but, astoundingly, the curriculum is traditionally the starting point for what the student will be expected to prove learning of. Appropriately, CSLE begins with the learner. The first consideration when establishing a learning environment is the needs of the student. In the Significant Learning Environment I am trying to create, Career and Technical Education (CTE) instructors are the learners. My goal is to facilitate an environment in which these instructors will take ownership of their classrooms and teaching so that they, in turn, facilitate an environment that encourages job readiness skills that lead to student certifications, internships, and, ultimately, careers in business and industry, public service, and STEM related fields. The importance of the student’s role cannot be minimized here. When creating a significant learning environment, the onus for “taking control and ownership of their learning” lies with the learner (Harapnuik 2018).

If the learner is responsible for owning his or her leaning, what, you might ask, is the instructor’s role in the CSLE approach? The instructor’s role transitions to that of “presenter, facilitator, coach, and mentor (Haraphuik 2018). With learning in a classroom potentially veering off in multiple directions in pursuit of the different answers students are seeking, the instructor has no hope of being the sole gatekeeper of information. In CSLE, the teacher embraces the students’ use of technology tools; therefore, the teacher quickly realizes, that he/she has no hope of competing with Google for providing answers to the myriad questions that arise in a student-centered classroom (Brown & Thomas 2011). To illustrate this point in the CTE automotive classroom, imagine needing to learn how to replace a distributor cap on a number of different makes and models of automobiles. Do you think the most accurate and efficient means of learning how to perform this maintenance repair would be to rely on the one automotive instructor explaining how to do it, or would it be to consult various manufacturers’ websites and YouTube videos to see how the distributor cap is removed and replaced on different vehicles? I think the answer is clear.

Brown and Thomas dedicated a significant portion of their book to their examination of the collective as a powerful engine to further learning. They provided illustrative examples of how tapping into multiple people dedicated to an area of inquiry is so much more powerful and informative than the previous way of learning, which was by relying on a trusted informed source, such as the Encyclopedia Britannica or Walter Cronkite (Brown & Thomas 2011). When the computer programmer needed to understand the “machine-speak” explanation for the error codes he encountered, he took to the web for a human translation. These translations were provided by hundreds of other programmers who no-doubt felt the same frustration at an earlier time. When the patient was desperately seeking information about a serious diagnosis he just received, a collective group dedicated to diabetes support provided true peace of mind. Or when Sam was trying to improve his Scratch programming skills, he relied on a community of similarly minded people who helped him learn and meet the very particular set of needs that he had (Brown & Thomas 2011). In each of these instances collectives not only helped these people learn, but, undoubtedly, the fact that these people participated in the collective strengthened the group even more. This power of the collective through social networking is a key component to CSLE. To further the CTE example, imagine a collaborative of culinary arts teachers offering expertise to one another on the best way to teach students how to braise short ribs or sous vide tenderloin. The power of the collective is profound.

Another important component of CSLE is the instructional design wherein the end is the starting point; the instructor designs the learning with this end in mind. If we backward design our lessons with the outcome being the primary objective that frees us up to pursue that outcome in a way that makes the most sense to the learner. Instead of teaching one set way of approaching a problem, students bring their individual perspectives to the challenge resulting in many different approaches to finding a solution. Take the classic bridge design challenge in a CTE STEM class. A teacher can task a classroom of students to build a bridge. The teacher then introduces constraints into the assignment, e.g. length of the span, amount of weight it must hold and allowable building materials, etc. The students then must work toward that end—taking into consideration the constraints—to arrive at the best solution. Along the way, the instructor can provide mathematical formulas and laws of physics that will assist in their design. When approached this way, it opens up many more avenues for leaning, exploration, and imagination.

Finally, at the end of a unit, we want to provide an opportunity for students to demonstrate their learning. This does not—SHOULD NOT—always be in the form of an exam. Particularly in the CTE classroom, teachers have a unique opportunity to allow students to show mastery of a concept by building, programming, editing, cooking, welding, diagnosing, planning or arguing something. CTE is all about doing; we provide students the opportunity to show us what they have learned by demonstrating the skills they have acquired.

By creating significant learning environments that put the learner first, allow the instructor to act as facilitator and mentor, embrace the collective through social networking, introduce learning that puts the end result at the forefront, and allow students to demonstrate their learning in multiple ways, we have the power to embody the most important characteristic of a great teacher. We can create a climate in which students want to learn. And as Douglas Thomas pointed out in his TED Talk, when students want to learn, there is no stopping them.


Brown, J. S., & Thomas, D., (2011). A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change. (Vol 219) Lexington, KY: CreateSpace

Harapnuik, D. CSLE vs Traditional.

Thomas, D. A New culture of learning (TEDxUFM) [Video].

Annotated Prospective Resource List

scholarly resources

Hedberg, J. & Alexander, S. (2006). Virtual Reality in Education: Defining Researchable Issues. Educational Media International, 31:4, 214-220, DOI: 10.1080/0952398940310402

This paper discusses educational outcomes and the efficacy of VR for the design of modern learning environments. It also seeks to link current beliefs about learning with the need to experience a world in which the pedagogical assumptions can be embedded into the objects, contexts and relationships from which the user might derive further complex concepts.


Youngblut, C. (1998). Educational Uses of Virtual Reality Technology. Defense Technical Education Center

This document reviews current efforts that are developing, evaluating, or using VR technology in education. It builds a picture of the states of the art and practice, and reviews some of the critical questions that are being addressed.


Bower, M. Howe, C., McCredie, N., Robinson, A. & Grover, D. (2014). Augmented Reality in education – cases, places and potentials,Educational Media International, 51:1, 1-15, DOI: 10.1080/09523987.2014.889400

This paper reviews uses of Augmented Reality both in mainstream society and in education, and discuss the pedagogical potentials afforded by the technology.

Vision for Embracing Transformational Innovations in Education

disruptive innovation

As not only a digital learner, but a digital leader as well, I must be able to recognize innovations that have the power to positively impact education. Successfully effecting change in the educational system requires a two-step process. First, I have to stay current with the latest information and writings in the fields of education and technology. Only by being aware of the emerging innovations that have the potential to change education, can I be prepared to proactively embrace those innovations. Second, once I have recognized an educational transformation opportunity, I will use that innovation to enhance my organization and all the stakeholders in it.

One such example of a cutting-edge innovation that has the potential to transform education is the use of virtual reality in the Career and Technical Education classroom. Imagine being able to take your students down to the engine room of a ship, or fifty stories up to experience the construction site of a skyscraper. Just like traditional core subject teachers desire to bring their lessons to life, Career and Technical Education instructors are constantly on the lookout for opportunities to bring real-world experiences to students so that those students can see—first-hand—the work environments of the occupations that their career pathway courses will one day lead to. Historically, this is done by taking students on field trips where they have the opportunity to tour a place of work, such as a welding or fabrication shop, a laboratory, a factory, or an automotive facility. While there is no substitute for bringing students on location to a job site, technology exists that could augment student site visits and eliminate the logistical obstacles that often prevent students from visiting many work sites.

Now, more than ever a digital revolution is transforming the way we do education. We now have access to tools that can bring learning to life like never before. By bringing the revolutionary medium of virtual reality into the CTE classroom, we can prepare students for a world in which they will grow and start a career. The links below will provide a detailed picture of how I intend to embrace the innovation of virtual reality to improve learning for the CTE students of the Houston Independent School District.

Innovation Proposal

Literature Review

Implementation Outline

Digital Story

Annotated Prospective Resource List

Innovation Proposal: Virtual Reality in the CTE Classroom

vr in cte


As you know, CTE places a premium on learning that is less theory based and more focused on working with one’s hands and performing a task. Be it welding metal, sautéing herbs or dressing a wound, CTE is all about physically practicing the craft or trade students learn about.

One way to bring learning alive, particularly learning that focuses on real-world occupations, is to arrange for students to take part in out-of-classroom experiences. However, because field trips are hard to coordinate and organize, they can be costly, and they often take away from class time in other subjects, an alternative (or supplement) is to create a virtual reality experience. My proposal is to work with Arts A/V career cluster students to create VR experiences in occupational settings. Imagine letting students tour the working conditions of the engine room aboard a ship, or welding on a construction site, or working in an emergency room. Creating virtual reality tours of workplaces has the potential to provide educators an opportunity to impact a greater number of students at a lower cost.

How To Implement?

Let me begin by stating that for this innovation proposal to be a success, I first need to learn a lot more about how virtual reality content is created. I do know that there are two different classes of headsets: one that requires a high-end computer to work with it, and one that can be used with a smart phone. Examples of the high-end type are the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive. Examples of the smart phone dependent style are the Samsung Gear VR (better, but only works with a Samsung phone) and the dirt cheap Google Cardboard. I mention this because acquisition of hardware will be necessary to implement this project. Another component of this initiative is how to create the content. In addition to a 360-degree VR camera, I will need to coordinate with Arts A/V instructors and students who will create the content. I will also need to coordinate with business partners who will allow access to their facilities for filming. Finally, there is the matter of how to disseminate VR video tours. I envision needing to create an online repository from which the tours can be accessed.

What Does Success Look Like?

Ultimately, I will deem this initiative successful when CTE teachers and students across my district have access to a library of virtual reality experiences that immerse the student in the working environments of high demand/high wage occupations.

Literature Review: Utilizing Virtual Reality in the CTE Classroom


With the development of sophisticated computer hardware and software and their ever-decreasing costs, virtual reality is poised to be the next big tool to drive instruction in the K-12 classroom. This review will look specifically look at the Career and Technical Education classroom and at the different ways virtual environments can be created to allow students to experience real-world job sites virtually. Furthermore, this paper will delve into the benefits for implementing VR in the CTE classroom and what is required to make that implementation successful.


Image result for virtual reality



Imagine being able to take your students down to the engine room of a ship, or fifty stories up to experience the construction site of a skyscraper. Just like traditional core subject teachers, Career and Technical Education instructors are constantly on the lookout for opportunities to bring real-world experiences to students so that those students can see—first-hand—the work environments of the occupations that their career pathway courses will one day lead to. Historically, this is done by taking students on field trips where they have the opportunity to tour a place of work, such as a welding or fabrication shop, a laboratory, a factory, or an automotive facility. While there is no substitute for bringing students on location to a job site, technology exists that could augment student site visits and eliminate the logistical obstacles that often prevent students from visiting many work sites. This literature review will provide definitions and distinctions for and between 360-degree video, virtual reality (VR), and augmented reality (AR). This review also aims to examine the different types of equipment necessary to produce and engage in these technology experiences, the innovative ways these technologies are being implemented in the K-16 classroom, and, most importantly, the benefits to students and instructors for utilizing these technologies.


360-Degree Video, Augmented Reality, and Virtual Reality: Definitions, Descriptions, and Differences

All three technologies: 360-video, AR and VR have useful applications in the classroom, first let us understand the differences between the three.

360-Degree Video

360-degree video involves capturing footage from all directions through the use of an omni-directional camera. The footage is stitched together either by the camera or using a software application. Oley (2017) notes that this technology is “rooted in panoramic photography of the early 1850s.” Films shot in 360 degrees, allow viewers to click on the video and move their mouse around to observe different perspectives. YouTube and Facebook allow users to upload and view 360-degree videos on their platforms (Olney, 2017). Not to confuse matters, but Olney (2017) points out that 360-degree videos can be shot in 2-D or 3-D. 2-D has one feed being displayed to both eyes, while 3-D (stereoscopic) has an individual video feed for both eyes, which provides the sense of depth.

Augmented Reality

One only needs to look to the popularity of Pokemon Go or watch an NFL football game to understand how ubiquitous augmented reality (AR) has become in our everyday lives. (That yellow line indicating the line of scrimmage on your television set is an example of AR). Think Mobiles website defines AR as “an enhanced version of reality where live direct or indirect views of physical real-world environments are augmented with superimposed computer-generated images over a user’s view of the real-world, thus enhancing one’s current perception of reality.” In other words, with AR, both the real world and a virtual world coexist harmoniously.

Virtual Reality

Virtual Reality (VR) takes AR a step further and completely immerses a person in a total virtual world. The Virtual Reality Society (2017) describes VR as: “a three-dimensional, computer generated environment which can be explored and interacted with by a person. That person becomes part of this virtual world and whilst there, is able to manipulate objects or perform a series of actions.”

Now that we have a general understanding of these different types of environments, let us examine how they can be used in an educational setting.


Benefits of Incorporating VR into the Classroom (Why?)

Mulvahill (2017) provided some quotes form her students that captures their excitement about using VR in her classroom.

  • “It was really cool because it felt like you were there… I didn’t have to come up with a picture in my mind because I was seeing what it was actually like.”
  • “I like it a lot because it is fun to be able to be IN what we are learning about.”
  • “It was fun to learn because it let us use our electronics.”

That is a sample of a few students’ perceptions. “The market for virtual reality applications is growing at a rapid pace and is expected to double in the next five years” (Bolkan, 2017). As the cost of VR hardware drops—leading schools to have more access to technology—there is increased interest in VR as an educational tool, but will VR gain a foothold in the education sector, and what, if any, are the benefits to using this technology in the classroom?

Expense is one factor that the use of VR could potentially alleviate. “You can’t fly your whole school to Machu Picchu” (Johnson, 2017). Similarly, while not as expensive as a trip to South America, just the expense of commissioning several school buses to drive students across town to a workplace of interest to CTE students could get expensive. Add to that expense the cost of students missing valuable instruction time in their other core classes, and one realizes quite quickly how costly field trips can be.

As teachers, we also do not want to expose children to dangerous environments. You wouldn’t want students to learn how to operate a port crane by doing it the first time in reality. Never mind the fact that practicing first in VR could save lives and prevent damage to property, it allows students to see if such an activity is something they have an aptitude for and want to pursue.

Finally, VR allows one to do the impossible. “you can’t change skin color, but if our avatar has a different skin color or gender when you look down, this will affect your implicit biases for weeks to come.” (Johnson, 2017). VR allows teachers and students to do things in the classroom that are impossible in the real world.

Implementation of VR in the Classroom

Since Ivan Sutherland and his student, Bob Sproull, created the first head-mounted display in 1968, VR has come a long way, but it has yet to be widely adopted. Only 21% of households have a headset and this percentage is far lower for classrooms (Higgin, 2018). Given this statistic, VR is at the very early stages of educational implementation. When contemplating introducing VR into your classroom, it is good to first have an understanding of your different options:

One option is to use a high-end headset like the HTC Vive or the Oculus Rift, Facebook’s VR headset, have been hitting price points around $400 (Steinbach, 2018). These headsets require one to be connected to a computer that is configured for VR. This type of model will provide users with a more true-to-life experience. Given the ubiquity of smartphones today—essentially every student has one—teachers and technology integration specialists can also consider using headsets that accommodate a smartphone. In this type of setup, the phone is the processing hub, eliminating the need to connect to a computer. The experience is not quite as seamless, but it is still very good considering the drastically reduced price. Examples of headsets that use a smartphone are Samsung Gear. Particularly impressive is the Merge 360 VR Goggles. According to their website, the Merge 360 headset is made from a soft, pliable material that is comfortable, withstands a lot of use, easy to clean, and can be shared with multiple users. All these qualities are necessary in a classroom unit. These qualities make them ideal for a classroom setting. The very inexpensive Google Cardboard, is a solution that, at the $10 price point, fits almost every school budget. Depending on what headset you go with, the quality of the VR experience varies, naturally, but the affordability has opened the door for experimentation and introducing the technology to a wider audience (Steinbach, 2018). To compliment the explosion of VR devices, Google expanded its Expeditions Pioneer Program in 2016. This program was the result of a hackathon in Google’s education department. Jen Holland, then a product manager at Google Apps for Education, drew on existing Google assets—the recently launched Cardboard, some teaching apps in development, and a huge archive of 3D maps and photographs. She combined the three to make interactive virtual reality lessons, which she calls “experiences” (Hansman, 2016).


Next Steps

While appreciating the strides VR has made as an entertainment and educational tool, heretofore, we have only discussed the consumption of VR content in the classroom. It is unlikely that content providers will ever completely satisfy educators’ need for specific subject area content. A recent study was conducted by Foundry 10 in which it analyzed student’s perception of VR usage in their learning. The study also sought to learn in which subjects students found the use of VR to be the most useful. The report indicated that 44% of students were inclined to use VR in science; 38% in history; 12% in English and 3% in math education (Hentsch 2018).

An advantage to using 3D-creation tools is that it allows the student to do more than consume virtual reality; it allows the student to become the creator of  his/her own VR content (Hentsch 2018). Platforms like CoSpaces Edu allow students to create and explore VR and AR worlds. Equipped with some coding knowledge, students can animate their worlds or use their own 360-degree photographs to create their environments. By using approachable tools such as CoSpaces Edu, students now have the power to create any environment of their choosing. This is an exciting prospect for the realm of CTE education because, currently, not much content exists that is applicable to CTE.



No one would argue that a digital revolution is changing the way we engage students in school. The tools that teachers can now access make it much easier to implement VR. More than ever, schools are doing everything they can to make their students “future-ready.” By facilitating access to virtual reality in the classroom and allowing students to experiment with the VR tools, they will be much more prepared for the digital world in which they will inhabit and launch a career (Hentsch 2018).



Ausburn, L. (2019). “Spheres of Reality”: A Conceptualization of Desktop Virtual Environments in Career and Technical Education and an Implementation Training Model Virtual Environments in CTE and Industry.


Billinghurst, M. (2002, December). Augmented Reality in Education. Retrieved from


Hansman, H. (2016). How Can Schools Use Virtual Reality? Retrieved from


Hentsch, C (2018). Virtual Reality in Education: How VR can be Beneficial to the Classroom. Retrieved from


Higgin, T. (2018, April 3). What the Research Says About VR in Classrooms. Retrieved from


Johnson, M. (2017). How Virtual Reality and Embodied Learning Could Disrupt Education. Retrieved from


Kessler, S. (2017). Using Virtual Reality in the Real-Life Classroom. Retrieved from


Lynchdecember, M. (2017). Are Teachers Ready for Virtual Reality in the Classroom? Retrieved from


McCann, A. (2018). 10 Reasons to Use Virtual Reality in the Classroom. Retrieved from


Mulvahill, E. (2017). How One Teacher Got Started with Virtual Reality in the Classroom. Retrieved from


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Thompson, M. (2018). Making Virtual Reality a Reality in Today’s Classroom. Retrieved from


Innovation Plan Outline

Innovation Plan Outline


In the CTE classroom, teachers are constantly on the lookout for opportunities to bring real-world experiences to students so that they can see first-hand the work environments of those who work in the trade or career pathway the student is studying. Historically, this is done by taking students on field trips where they have the opportunity to tour a place of work, such as a welding or fabrication shop, a construction site, a laboratory, a factory, or an auto shop. While there is no substitute for bringing students on location to a job site, technology exists that could augment student site visits and reduce the logistical obstacles that often prevent students from visiting many work sites.

My proposal is to leverage the latest technology in 360-degree cameras to create virtual field trips students can take to experience real-life career job sites.

For further context for this  outline, please take a look at my full Innovation Proposal and Literature Review.


  1. Present idea of creating virtual career-themed field trips to the Assistant Superintendent of Career Readiness to gain approval for dedicating time and resources to this endeavor.
  2. Solicit approval from campus principals of CTE Arts A/V pathways throughout the district to allow students to participate in the 360-degree filming of different career work sites.
  3. Present idea to campus CTE department heads.
  4. Approach Arts A/V teachers about the plan.
  5. Encourage Arts A/V instructors to identify students who would be suitable candidates to work on the project. Ensure that students are knowledgeable about the techniques for 360-degree filming.
  6. Engage business partners from six high-growth, high-demand job sectors about the feasibility of filming at their places of employment. The careers for which we want to find business partners willing to let us film on their job sites are:
    • Automotive
    • Construction
    • Culinary
    • Health Science
    • Manufacturing
    • Maritime
  7. Identify company point-person for day-of filming


  1. Procure equipment necessary for 360-degree filming and editing.
    • The Ricoh Theta V is a good camera at a $400 price point.
    • Possibly a small lighting kit
    • microphone
  2. Schedule filming dates with business partners.
  3. Secure any media release documents that might be necessary on industry job sites.
  4. Schedule off-campus releases for 2-3 student filming crews.
  5. On the day of filming, liaise with identified company point person.
  6. Supervise filming and interviewing.
  7. Communicate with campus personnel when filming has concluded, and students are returning to campus.
  8. Update Arts A/V instructor on the filming shoot and inquire about time required to edit footage.
  9. Receive completed segment from campus Arts A/V team and review.
  10. Either accept or provide recommendations and ask for edits.
  11. Make videos accessible via online repository (department website or app-enabled site such as Google Expeditions).

III. Evaluation

  1. Solicit feedback from stakeholders involved in filming (business partners, students, instructors).
  2. Promote videos to students and parents using all means of effective district communication.
  3. Using web page analytics, monitor the number of times videos were accessed online.
  4. Develop survey to ascertain efficacy of videos.
  5. Distribute survey to students
  6. Based on survey results, modify this plan.