Review by Jason Shiroff, Common Sense Education | Updated August 2016
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Discovery VR

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Immersive videos let students enter the magical world of VR

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Grades
3-10 This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
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Pros: Exciting videos will pull users into virtual worlds that are hard to leave behind.

Cons: Some content may not be appropriate for younger audiences, and there isn't a way to limit what students see in the app.

Bottom Line: VR videos will grab the viewer's attention; just be sure to carefully select the content for your class.

Teachers can use Discovery VR by sharing specific videos that align with their class content. You could assign questions and viewing guides for each video and follow up with targeted discussions. Videos could also be used as the hook into a design-thinking challenge. The VR experience is different each time it's explored since users can focus their attention on any part of the 360-degree video. Multiple viewings, especially using a headset, will help students explore the content in a new way and notice more details with each visit to the VR world.

The app is also a great tool for inspiring young writers. Teachers could use the videos to help students develop more vivid story details or inspire new ideas for their writing assignments. Having students describe what they see in the VR videos could be a useful tool for ELLs or speech therapy students. Of course, the app is also great for discussing how the brain processes 2D images into 3D imagery.

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Discovery VR is like YouTube for 3D videos. The content includes short videos from a wide range of Discovery series including Shark Week, MythBusters, Racing Extinction, and more. Videos can be searched by series, but the sorting options and search features are limited. The videos can be viewed directly on a desktop browser, smartphone, or tablet. Moving those devices around changes the perspective and brings a 360-degree view to users.

The app really shines when used with a VR headset. Google Cardboard and Oculus Rift headsets deepen the level of immersion into the VR universe and create fantastic 3D worlds for users to explore. Some of the best classroom-related content can be found in the Racing Extinction, Innovative Design, and Gold Rush series.

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Teachers who enjoy integrating videos into their instruction may find Discovery VR useful. The big difference between using YouTube versus a VR video is that VR works best one-on-one. Discovery VR videos can be projected on a standard LCD screen, but viewers won't be able to move through the VR world at will. That aspect of self-discovery is what makes the Discovery VR content so magical and engaging and may help develop inquiry-based skills.

There is also a limit to the number of VR videos that teachers will find useful for learning in their classrooms. Educators of younger students may not want them browsing videos from series such as "I (Almost) Got Away with It" or "Ghost Asylum." The app would have stronger educational value if teachers could easily link to specific videos or create playlists.

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Overall Rating
3

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?
4

What's more engaging than swimming with sharks and riding roller coasters? The virtual reality videos will surely grab your students' attention. Watching new users engage with the app is just as entertaining!

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?
2

The app isn't designed specifically for education purposes, so videos can be hit or miss for learning value. There are no playlists, dashboards, or data-tracking options, which would make this a stronger choice for schools.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?
3

The app is easy to use but doesn't offer much in terms of tutorials, data tracking, or accessibility options. There is no way to limit or control the content students can view.


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Jason Shiroff Classroom teacher

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