Virtual Reality in the History Classroom Anna Blackwell

History is often one of the most disliked subjects by students. Kids usually don't find reading textbooks, writing papers, or sitting through lectures on events that occurred hundreds of years ago interesting at all. However, thanks to modern technological innovations, history can become a much more fascinating subject for children to enjoy. Virtual reality is a computer-generated simulation image or environment that can be interacted with in a seemingly real or physical way by a person. It is becoming one of the most popular tools in the classroom, and it can be especially useful for history and social studies classrooms. Historical events, people, and places can become more palpable and relevant when students experience these legendary settings for themselves, making them far more engaged in the subject matter.

"Slave Poet VR - George Moses Horton"

This virtual reality app allows students to experience the life of George Moses Horton, the first published African American poet in the Antebellum South. Horton was a slave on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, making this VR app especially powerful for teaching North Carolina history. Students can not only experience the life and poetry of Horton, but understand how life was at the University during the Civil War Era. Using "Slave Poet VR," teachers can have students use this app to compare the exceptional life of Horton to the average slave at the time to understand the limitations black slaves usually faced in society. This app is free, but does require the use of a Google Cardboard device.

Screenshots from the "Slave Poet VR" app

Timelooper: New York, Ellis Island

Timelooper is a fantastic virtual reality app that provides realities from a number of places around the world and various time periods throughout history. For a U.S. history class, the Ellis Island option would be great for a lesson on immigration in the United States during the late-19th and early 20th centuries. This reality features different episodes in which students experience immigrating to the U.S. through Ellis Island from the perspective of a young European girl, helping students understand the excitement and anticipation of immigrants during this time. Students can work individually or in groups with a handout of guiding questions on third wave immigration (where were immigrants coming from, what kinds of immigrants were turned away, how did native citizens react to the large wave of immigrants? etc.). The Timelooper app is free, with in-app purchases costing between $3.99-6.99, and requires Google Cardboard.

Episodes from the Ellis Island Segment of Timelooper

Google Expeditions: Pearl Harbor and World War II

Google Expeditions is one of the leading sites for virtual reality. There are hundreds of expeditions to choose from, with new ones being added everyday. There are virtual reality options for every subject, especially history. With Google Expeditions, students can take a field trip right from their desk in the classroom, such as this expedition to Hawaii, home of the Pearl Harbor attack from World War II. Using this expedition, students can see the importance of Hawaii during the war and questions and answers associated with each site. The Google Expedition app and expedition sites are free to download and require a Google Cardboard to use.

Other Google Expeditions related to U.S. History:

Native American Cultures • Salem Village and the 1692 Witch Hysteria • The Jamestown Colony • The American Revolution Begins • The Declaration of Independence • Founding Fathers • Alexander Hamilton Establishes the US Economy • Historic Philadelphia • America Expands West • The Gold Rush • Slavery in America • The Civil War • Antietam • Little Bighorn Battlefield • Gettysburg National Military Park • The Lincoln Assassination at Fords Theater • The Great Migration • The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island • Immigration and Cities • The Home of Miss Agnes Toward: Exploring a Tenement House • Women’s Suffrage in the US • Reconstructing World War I Trenches • The Great Depression • The D-Day Invasion: Turning the Tide of World War II • The Lives of Three US First Ladies • The Vietnam War • Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail (parts 1 and 2) • Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site • Women’s Rights, Historic Sites: Moving History Forward • LGBT New York City History • American Landmarks • Homes of US Presidents • The National Mall • The White House • US Monuments • US Presidents Homes • US War Memorials • National Parks: Mt. Rushmore, Yosemite, Yellowstone

Google Expeditions by Subject:

Social Studies: World History, War, Government/Civics, Resources/Inventions, American History, U.S. Geography/Landmarks, Locations around the world, Museums/Galleries, National Parks/Historic Landmarks


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