Case study

Immersive Environments
at Oak Field School

Immersive environments are a great way to get pupils engaged with their surroundings, especially as part of a multi-sensory learning environment. When Nottingham’s Oak Field School opened as part of the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme in 2009, Jigsaw24 were on-hand to help staff develop an immersive environment that catered to their students’ diverse needs.

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The challenge
Oak Field currently has 140 pupils aged 3-19, all of whom have special educational needs. In the past, staff used light, sound, handmade props and a projector to create a multi-sensory environment for students, but their single-projector system wasn’t fit for purpose – it was hard to envelop students in a scene they could only see on one wall. Oak Field staff wanted an environment that was complete enough to feel immersive, flexible enough to offer students personalised learning opportunities and simple enough that they could master it quickly.

The solution
We installed a three-projector system that projected a mixture of HD 2D and 3D content onto three walls of the room, immediately making the experience more immersive.

Then, after consulting with teachers and technicians, we developed five custom-built environments: a beach, a forest, a snowscape, outer space and a dynamic ‘outdoor’ environment that showed different times of day and types of weather. The scenes were animated enough to be engaging, but not overwhelming; teachers could still customise the space using music, lights, costumes and textures (covering the floor in bubble wrap is a student favourite) to create effective, personalised learning experiences.

We also created an interactive 3D environment, in which pupils could animate an underwater scene by hitting different pads on a drumkit. This encouraged children who had difficulty communicating to get involved, and helped teachers to gauge their social potential.

The benefits
So far, the school has been taking small groups of children into the immersive environment five or six times a week. Teachers use the environments as a basis for activities they’ve designed – during an onsite visit, we saw pupils dressed up as astronauts being ‘launched’ into space, complete with a simulated shuttle take-off. This adaptability helps staff cater to children of all ages and abilities.

Carers and teachers use the immersive environment alongside pupils, so it’s easy for them to track each student’s development. Janet Patrick, a carer at the school, explains: “The immersive environment makes it much easier for teachers and carers to see what the children are really capable of in terms of movement and understanding. It’s great to see them so calm and engaged.”

Oak Field’s ICT co-ordinator, Sarah Pople, set up a voluntary training programme, and found teachers could use the new projection system effectively with very little help. After receiving feedback from staff, our immersive environments expert, Anthony Hammond, is creating more bespoke environments, and is working on a set of easy to use templates that will let staff create their own content as and when they need it.

Teachers have noticed that some children struggle to hit the drumkit during interactive sessions, so we’re looking into incorporating other controls, such as buttons and triggers to ensure the environment is as inclusive as possible.

“I’m absolutely thrilled with the system. The children love all the different environments, and the staff have found it easy to get to grips with the system. The support from Jigsaw24 has been a real help - they’ve been on hand to solve any problems we’ve had or make any changes we’ve needed.”

Sarah Pople, KS2 teacher and ICT co-ordinator, Oak Field School

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Oak Field School
Oak Field School
Oak Field School
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