Agriculture students were delighted to welcome Adam Henson and the team from BBC Countryfile into their lessons during Februrary 2019, to share how Plumpton College is leading the way with immersive technology in teaching and learning.
The teaching and learning team at Plumpton have been working with and investing in 360 degree technology and virtual reality, to be used for practical teaching sessions, online learning resources, and within the classroom!
During 2017/18, staff and students tested out differing forms of Virtual Reality within the classroom, exploring the impact of this technology on learning progress and achievements. Students also experimented with creating immersive learning resources. The project, in partnership with the Education & Training Foundation, led to Plumpton creating an online Virtual Hub, where VR learning resources are available, and can be used on virtual reality headsets, mobiles, desktops, and remotely through the college's virtual learning environment. This has drastically improved the number of students that Plumpton can reach, and developed not only the practices of teaching within the college, but the skills of its students in preparation for the fast-moving industry. Visit Teaching with Virtual Reality to find out more about previous VR projects at Plumpton, and where a guide has been launched for other practitioners on how to use virtual reality in their own teaching.
When speaking to Adam Henson about the impact of using this technology in the classroom, Plumpton's Director of Teaching, Sam Coles, said:
"Students lead these projects, devising the materials themselves, creating storyboards and scripts. It helps them to understand how to explain the practical work they are undertaking, especially when it a process that is part of a daily routine in the farming day, where often tasks feel second nature, and to be able to explain the importance of best practice and why actions are undertaken is an important part of learning."
On the day
The students and BBC film crew had a busy schedule! The Level 3 Agriculture students were tasked with creating their own virtual reality learning resource. This video would be used to teach Level 1 and 2 Agriculture students the best practice when: milking the dairy herd, preparing the herd for milking, and why certain processes and standards are upheld and carried out to maintain and ensure the health and welfare of the dairy cows.
The video was entirely the students' own creation. They devised a storyboard to assist with filming, where to cut scenes, how long each segment needed to be, and the location of each section within the college's working farm facilities. The students wrote scripts, allocated roles, and generally got heavily involved in the filming process. Working on the learning resource, students noted that they were having to engage with the skills and knowledge they had acquired during their Level 3 programme, and that the task of creating their own virtual reality video improved their own thinking processes and knowledge attainment. The fact that it was virtual reality specifically meant they had to reiterate physical processes so that the Level 1 and 2 student could see visual demonstrations, which tested the Level 3 students' retention of knowledge and skills.
Adam got involved with the students in the classroom, seeing how the students were planning their film and script. He didn't escape getting his hands dirty, either, assisting students in demonstrating health and welfare processes during the milking procedure, which was used in the final virtual reality video. Once the film was made and edited, Adam met up with the Level 2 students in the classroom, to see how the VR headsets were used in study, and the impression this technology had left.
Adam also asked Sam Coles, as Director of Teaching, why he thought using innovative technology such as virtual reality was necessary:
"More and more students are studying at Plumpton College who do not have a farming background, and so utilising resources like this in the classroom before practical sessions in the parlour helps to embed learning prior to being in the environment.
"We use the 360-degree cameras and virtual reality headsets across a range of our subjects and take this technology out into schools as a great way to show prospective students the amount of technology used in the land-based sectors and to prepare our students for their careers where technology will be used in everyday practice. Not only will practical skills be needed, but digital skills are also becoming increasingly important. We have to look to the future to ensure students leave us with the right skills their industry demands."