VR takes new role in education


Hayden Brown

Media courtesy of Hayden Brown.

Sophia Smith, Staff Reporter

In January of 2023, Hayden Brown, a teacher from Australia, visited Riverside Brookfield High School. Brown is the creator of a non-profit organization known as VR4Good. He came to RBHS and presented to numerous history classes about his organization and how it can be applied to our education system.

Brown initially came about virtual reality through teaching Big History. Big History is a project which helps students see their lives’ importance within history. So, Brown created a Virtual Reality (VR) documentary about his town in Broome, Australia for his students to experience. His teaching style began to change from that moment on.

“I realized the transformative power of VR when it was used to share stories that matter to people and communities that often don’t have their stories told,” Brown said.

Seeing such a positive reaction from his students motivated Brown to create VR4Good. He’s been creating this enterprise through the VRTY platform for the past few years. He officially launched the Australian version of VR4Good in October 2022 when Australia began to reopen from COVID-19. Brown hopes to launch the American version in late 2023.

“VR4Good is a Not-for-Profit Company and therefore the aim is to improve accessibility to the creation progress in VR for all schools. This means providing a no-cost option for schools that lack the funding to implement VR Programs in their schools,” Brown said.

Brown wishes to extend VR4Good to those in low-income schools so they could have this immersive experience as well. To do so, other schools that can afford it would then finance VR4Good and have the same equipment. Their funding is important for this enterprise to thrive and give other schools access to this. Part of his goal is to seek these schools that can help fund them while also being educated by VR4Good.

“That is the role that I feel Riverside-Brookfield High School could play, as a lighthouse school in Illinois,” Brown said.

As mentioned before, Brown visited RBHS and held an interactive presentation for the students and staff to enjoy. He pitched VR4Good and showed all the intricacies of the devices used and the website. Students were able to use the website through their phones, which took them to 360-degree views of places in Broome and around the world. Through that, they can click on certain parts of the scenery and learn about that place’s history.

“I would say that this trip to the USA and Illinois, in general, has been hugely gratifying and has made me feel successful and potential for Vr4Good to have a positive impact on education in the USA,” Brown said.

Brown’s trips here have further encouraged him to continue this path with VR4Good. He will continue growing this enterprise while he’s on his sabbatical. He will be making a return to the USA in September-November to share more about his enterprise.

“I hope that we will be able to help a dozen schools in Australia and the USA create no-cost VR projects this year as well as establish a number of lighthouse school relationships to help provide pedagogical and curriculum support in individual states,” Brown said.

Throughout his time working on VR4Good he keeps these main goals in mind. Creating lighthouse school relationships will play a key role in this plan. While Brown continues to build these relationships and work on VR4Good he has learned a lot in the process.

“Working on VR4Good has taught me that most people don’t really know how to approach VR or understand its educational value,” Brown said.

From this experience, Brown had to learn how to show people how this can make a change in students’ education within their history classes. People underestimated the power it really held and how much more students are engaged with learning because of it. Once they begin to understand his ways, they see the true value. Students can finally expand their learning in history from the typical curriculum and learn about their surroundings currently.

“I hope students have a chance to create stories that matter to them using VR and see it for the empowering, empathy-building tool that it is,” Brown said.