Working with Special Education Needs can be very heartening, though its not difficult to imagine the multiple challenges faced by their instructor. Students with cognitive, intellectual, mental, or other disabilities often deficit communication skills, apart from difficulty in concentration, focus, and expression. For our quest to contribute to enhance learning practices, we have experienced how Virtual Reality is one revolutionary method in special education in many aspects.
Increasingly being recognized as an effective tool for its rehabilitation abilities for cognitive processes and functional aspects, Virtual Reality (VR) provides special needs students with opportunities to improve their intellectual and motor skills within the safe powerful simulated virtual environments. Given that the students with special needs are limited in their ability to explore their surrounding and extended environments, VR affords them the opportunity to discover the world in fascinating virtual environments where they are able to swim with the sharks or fly in the clouds, go on space excursion and even travel to planet Mars, sounds like an exciting classroom.
This is what VRXOne is going to be showcasing at the most awaited annual Bahrain Summer Festival where Nakhool Tent is opened to the families for participation in many cultural events, educational activities and entertainment programs. Bringing “Google Expeditions for Special Education Needs” to the event, the program will be held in association with the Bahrain Association for Parents and Friends of the Disabled, which is known in the region for its brilliant contribution towards the well-being and welfare of special needs students and their families through a number of interactive events, lectures, learning activities as well as cultural celebrations.
Just last year, the Association awarded Dr. Sana Farid, the AR/VR/Ai and Simulation expert at VRXOne and Co-founder & CEO of Munfarid Consulting, for her efforts and training workshops in Technology Aided Learning & Development for the Disabled, and Assistive Technology. Her ongoing efforts for the cause are manifest through VRXOne’s One Million VR Expeditions program in the Middle East with a special focus on Special Education Needs.
Since the use of virtual environments for special needs is as diverse as the field of Special Education itself, VR offers many benefits for students with disabilities including the ability to be adaptable and controllable as per the needs of an individual student, making it all the more ideal for special education purposes. What’s even more exciting is that beyond merely providing the chance to explore and learn about places, things, processes and subjects, VR even helps equip students with life skills by simulating training environments that assist in highlighting and focusing on individual strengths, abilities and learning preferences outside of their real world disabilities.
What this does for a special needs students is essentially huge in terms of a remarkable change in their self-confidence, self-esteem and ultimately serving to transform them into contributing citizens in the society. Ms. Abla Ahmed Mohamed, the Head of Activities and Projects Committee at the Bahrain Association of Parents and Friends of the Disabled, is certainly positive about the impact of VR in a special needs classroom, “The impact of VR on special needs is fascinating. Watching students with various disabilities being able to travel the world in minutes, is very uplifting. VR is definitely going to enable them to do a lot.”
On the part of teachers, VR helps them engage their students more comprehensively and provide them with a highly tempting learning environment, further assisting with communication skills especially when it comes to inclusive classrooms where teachers face one of the most challenging test of their jobs. Also facilitating an improved and much more organized form of interaction, VR enables the teachers to view live feed of what each student is looking at and discuss or ask questions about their experience and their personal focus. This is just the beginning for far more personalized learning opportunities for special needs students.
Evidently, engaging students with intellectual or other disabilities is not an easy task. The increasingly accessible and affordable virtual reality-based methods provide an ideal framework as an educational and training medium for them and developing their hidden talents into useful, practical strengths. No words can describe the happiness felt by the special children – and the satisfaction gained by the enablers – when their dreams come true through a simulated environment whether it is a dream to visit the pyramids, go for a hike on top of the highest mountains or just watch dinosaurs come alive from billions of years ago.
The Google IO 2018 consummated last week where benefits of intelligent technologies were trumpeted in the best way possible. With over 7,000 developers present, the program was also live-streamed by millions of people in different time zones who were eyeing over the company’s key announcements. The effects of the major developments can still be profoundly felt with many still in awe of the whirlwind progress in technology at Google.
A very special segment hosted by Benjamin Schrom, Product Manager at Google for Expeditions, highlighted the very important area of technologies that facilitate learning and form the pavement of immersive computing – Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality.
Both the technologies are improving pedagogy and Schrom explained why these technologies are so imperative to learning.
In his own words,
‘Virtual Reality’ can take you anywhere and ‘Augmented Reality’ can bring you anything.
While sharing the company’s vision for improving education, he acknowledged the efforts of the partners who offer Virtual Reality kits and expand the reach of the ‘Google for Education’ program. Out of the 10 partners showcased, VRXOne was the Middle East partner, responsible for bringing 1 Million Virtual Reality Expeditions for the students in the Middle East.
Combining abstracted textual and verbal cues coming from books, videos, and lectures with a fluid demonstration through the Virtual Reality technology, VRXOne is a product of Munfarid Consulting, a Bahraini Learning & Development company founded by the famous AR VR trainer and influencer, Dr. Sana Farid.
With sustained efforts and credible partnerships with leaders in innovation, VRXOne is being used to make an impact on the world of tomorrow. Its mention at the Google IO 2018 is a matter of pride and accomplishment for the region. It also clearly explains the efforts in the region by emerging companies to boost STEM learning and using innovation to the long-term vision of benefitting businesses, boosting entrepreneurship, and strengthening the economy.
With Virtual Reality being at the helm of education now at many government-owned schools, colleges as well as private institutions, other factors like boosting STEM learning, setting up innovation centers like the recent one at the UAE University campus, have further revitalized the shared goal towards enhanced skills in the students. It is the small steps towards innovation that make a nation and its citizens stand tall.
Determined entrepreneurs are reshaping the Middle East economy by building an Arab tech economy. Defeating the barriers by developing a growing local taste for technology, companies like Souq.com and Careem have channeled their potential and energy to drive growth.
In the Middle East, something path-breaking is happening, driving the world to honor its potential – be it the Amazon’s fondness for Souq, or be it the VRXOne’s mention at the Google IO 2018.
Apps Events, Dubai on Friday (May 11) and Saturday (May 12) welcomed educators, leaders and IT, administrators, to engage in a thoughtful conversation on the latest developments and updates pertaining to education at Google Summit. The session held at the Kent College, Dubai saw keen attendees, given the past reputation of the Apps Event’s success. Deep diving dives into many of the Google tools have been a great USP of these events.
The session was graced by the leaders in the Google for Education community had a lot to look out for.
The conference, eagerly awaited by tech aficionados around the world, kicked off with an inspiring keynote on the Day 1 by Rania Hadi, the Head of Google Education MENA. She took the stage to showcase the latest developments in the pursuit of better education at Google. Her talk was briefly yet deeply centered around what goes at the heart of Google that makes it work.
What followed was a chain of talks, experience sharing, and practical insights from teachers, technology evangelists and also by the Director of AppsEvents, Dan Taylor. His talk was a guided lesson to how, by using ‘core suite’ and other ‘non-core’ Google Apps, a school could be transformed to a Google school, starting from the basics and taking the penetration to a higher level.
Talks were delivered highlighting the benefits of G Suite, Google Slides, Chromebooks and elucidating the other lesser-known benefits to both students and teachers.
A special coverage of Virtual Reality Google Expeditions was observed as the prominent regional AR VR researcher and trainer, Dr. Sana Farid enlightened the fellow attendees on the benefits of Google Expeditions. Dr. Sana envisions, strategizes and streamlines Ai/AR/VR based programs in education to improve the learning experience in students. Her regional experience and in-depth understanding of reality technology have led to her being noted in the list of Top 101 Women in #ARVR 2017, winning her global acclaim.
Through her talk, Dr. Sana explained the workability of VR expeditions and how they can be easily implemented in classrooms to cater to individual student needs. Accounts of how Google expeditions could exponentially boost retention and decrease distraction from learning was the tipping point of the talk.
Another high note of the event was seeing pupils from the Kent College Dubai creating their own Google Classroom in real time, as well as other software from G Suite for Education.
Google Summit, on the whole, laid a strong pavement for a beginner’s understanding of Google’s education tools as well as allowed crossover of important exchange of views of the preeminent leaders, regional and global.
The premier Google Summit partners of the event were Acer and Intel.