Pennsylvania-based Schell Games plans to further develop its virtual reality (VR) content creation tool, HistoryMaker VR, following a substantial financial award from the US Department of Education.
The award of $900,000 is from the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) programme of the Institute of Education Sciences (IES). Schell Games was one of only eight to receive second-phase funding for their projects this year.
These funds will allow Schell Games to create an immersive learning tool that motivates and encourages middle school students to learn about history and civics in a new, engaging way.
HistoryMaker VR is a playful VR puppeting tool that allows students to embody historical characters in immersive settings, record performances featuring those characters, and share their performance files to demonstrate material mastery.
Students can select a historical figure to use as a puppet and record themselves as that person while interacting with era-specific props. They can also upload speeches into the tool and recite them using an in-VR teleprompter.
They can choose different vantage points inside the teaching aid to watch the recording, or the student or teacher can export the recording to watch outside of VR.
HistoryMaker VR can also be streamed so the entire classroom can watch and learn.
Schell Games received phase-one funding for HistoryMaker VR in 2018.
The company also previously received grants for Happy Atoms, a chemistry learning tool designed to teach molecular modeling in an intuitive, hands-on way, and HoloLAB Champions, which teaches high school students best practices for working in a chemistry lab environment.
Jesse Schell, chief executive officer of Schell Games and principal investigator of HistoryMaker VR, commented: “The most recently published National Assessment of Educational Progress report (NAEP, 2014) cites only 18 percent and 23 percent of 8th grade students performed at or above the proficient level in US history and civics, respectively. What’s more, students commonly report they find history to be boring and they lack motivation to understand or remember the content.”
“The generous grant from the IES coupled with the talented HistoryMaker VR development team could play a significant role in helping those numbers climb in the near future by offering students an entertaining way to learn about the past.”
A HistoryMaker VR second-phase video is available to view below:
Image credit: Schell Games