Studying landforms in Geography has long posed problems for students in the classroom as they try to make sense of three dimensional structures from two dimensional photographs and diagrams. The Year 11 pupils at G&L are currently revising for the GCSE Examinations and this offered an excellent opportunity for them to gain a new perspective on their studies using the new Mixed Reality Headset.
Using the Google Earth the pupils visited case study locations they had learnt about during their Geography Course in virtual reality and used the activity as a revision tool to boost their understanding of the processes involved in the formation of different landforms within the River Environments Course. Some of the sites selected included Niagara Falls to understand waterfall formation, the Grand Canyon to look at incised meanders, and the Hoover and Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dams to understand how HEP plants make use of the physical geography of a valley. Pupils were asked to recall and demonstrate to the class through the graphics on the screen, the key processes taking place at each site, incorporate their case study knowledge, and show how the landforms would change over time.
The students had a great deal of fun with the technology and were very enthusiastic about its potential for future work. The technology was particularly helpful in ensuring that they could visualise the different directions in which the processes would take place (laterally, vertically and in retreat). The task was also a notable success in enhancing their understanding of the construction and purpose of dams as several students had never visited one in real life. The software enabled them to visualise the scale and shape of the valley needed for the reservoir to form and overcome misconceptions about where and how the river would flood.
It is noticeable that some sites (mostly in wealthy nations) currently have far better accessibility and images, while other parts of the World have very limited graphics. It is hoped that this will continue to be developed with time but we would advise careful planning prior to the lesson to ensure that the most beneficial sites are visited. The potential for the software is enormous and we look forward to testing it further. At present, a key area for enhancement is that the students would like the opportunity for the software to respond more naturally to their movement; progressing when they walk around, rather than requiring them to click to move forwards. This would give them more autonomy in their experience of the sites and we hope eventually link the "Street-view" and "Aerial-views" more seamlessly.