Summit shows how AI transforms learning
Students at the Jumeira English Speaking School have taken a virtual field trip to Mars previously.
Trips to Mars, ancient cities, past historic events and inside the human body - Dubai students can experience it all, virtually.
Virtual reality can help transform classroom learning, according to educators who spoke to Khaleej Times on the sidelines of the Global Education Supplies and Solutions (GESS) summit on Tuesday.
One school is already using VR in their everyday learning.
"The VR experience is linked to the UAE's vision of space and Mars exploration and developing future scientists and astronauts. We wanted an experience that looked at learning through games but also simulate a real-life experience of going to Mars," said Geoffrey Alph-onso, CEO of Alef Education Consultancy, which was offering the VR experience to visitors at the summit at their booth.
"We have another product called Saal, where you can visualise diff-erent lessons on Mars, like a Mars curriculum. If you look at the learning platform that we implement in schools, there are also lessons on Mars.
"Alef Education is an organisation that was founded in the UAE, and is therefore aligned with the nation's vision to shift the education paradigm for schools in the country and around the world, by emerging as a global leader in transformational AI-enabled education technology.
"The exciting Mars VR experience we are showcasing at GESS 2018 complements our mission to nurture the minds of future generations, readying them to conquer humanity's next frontier on Mars. At Alef Education, we strive to foster intrigue, a love of learning, inn-ovation, critical thinking and creativity at schools, to feed and stimulate the bright scientific minds of the future, who in turn will contribute towards the fulfillment of the UAE and the world's development and space exploration goals."
Students at the Jumeira English Speaking School have taken a virtual field trip to Mars previously, according to the school's digital learning and innovation head, Steven Bambury.
He spoke to Khaleej Times about implementing VR into classrooms can transform learning.
"We've got a class set of headsets that different departments can rent out. In the last couple of weeks, we've had them in English, where they did a haunted house experience to inspire some creative writing. The history department did a Wall Street crash experience," he said.
"Virtual reality has already begun to transform education. Experiential learning is unparalleled. It's living history. It's allowing students to step in the past and to appreciate something they wouldn't have through a video and a textbook."
The GESS summit is a three-day event, taking place at the World Trade Centre, with hundreds of educators and education suppliers showcasing how classroom learning can be enhanced. It will end on March 1.
A virtual journey to Mars
I am thousands of miles above Earth, inside my spaceship. The view of our blue planet is breathtaking as I look down at it through the transparent glass beneath my feet. I'm excited to be on my way to Mars, but my heart is pounding from fear over how high up I am. My fear worsens as the alarm goes off. I'm told there are loose screws on the outer body of my spaceship. I have to carry out a spacewalk to fix it.
I put my helmet on, open the door lock, take a deep breath and jump out into the darkness of space, before landing on the outer edge of my ship. Even though I'm scared to bits, the view of the endless depth of the outer world, our home planet and stars is extraordinary. After completing my task, I'm alerted that we'll be descending onto Mars, soon.
As we land, bright red sand dunes surround me. I am told that the UAE Space Agency is nearby and I must report to it after completing my main mission of finding oxygen on the Red Planet.
A few more tasks are assigned to me, but, I feel confused and a little lost. There is nothing but sand around me and there are no humans in sight. The fear strikes again, this time not from dangerous stunts, but from the thought of being the only human on this planet. There are no sounds of birds chirping or winds blowing through trees.
But, I can't give up. I have to carry on my mission. I plant some seeds onto the fertiliser, in hopes of growing planets.
As I successfully finish my mission, someone taps me on my shoulder and, with a blink of an eye, I'm back on Earth. I wasn't really in outer space or Mars. The lifelike experience was achievable through a virtual reality (VR) headset technology at the Global Education Supplies and Solutions Summit, where educators, suppliers and decision-makers gathered to showcase how learning can be enhanced through technology.
I have tried several virtual reality experiences before, but, never have I had to walk in space or jump out of a spaceship. The experience was so realistic, some visitors gave up before having to 'jump out' for the spacewalk. And for the first time, I was scared for my life in the middle of the safe environs of Dubai World Trade Centre, right before heading out to fix the screws on my spaceship. Yet, I'd love to do a virtual trip to outer space and Mars, all over again.
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