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IES Contract

Title: History Maker VR
Center: NCER Year: 2019
Principal Investigator: Schell, Jesse Awardee: Schell Games
Program: Small Business Innovation Research      [Program Details]
Award Period: 2 year (6/26/2019 – 6/25/2021) Award Amount: $900,000
Type: Phase II Development Award Number: 91990019C0040

Project Website:

Video Demonstration of the Phase Prototype:

Purpose: This project team will fully develop and test History Maker VR, a virtual reality (VR) content-creation tool for middle school students to create, record, and share unique performances to increase understanding and relevance of historical events. History education encourages students to learn about the past and to develop critical thinking skills to negotiate the present world with appreciation for multiple perspectives. In the 2014 National Assessment of Educational Progress, only 18% and 23% of grade 8 students performed at or above the proficient level in U.S. history and civics, respectively. Further, students commonly report history to be boring and that they lack motivation to understand and remember the content.

Project Activities: During Phase I in 2018, the team developed a prototype of History Maker VR, a playful content-creation tool with a VR interface that allows students to embody historical characters in immersive settings, record performances featuring those characters, and share their performance files to demonstrate material mastery. The in-game teleprompter allows students to read notes they upload before the performance or pre-existing historical content. After recording, the student can jump into the director's booth and watch the virtual performance from the audience's viewpoint. At the end of Phase I, researchers completed a pilot study with 101 middle school students and four teachers. The prototype operated as intended, students were engaged by the prototype and were able to act out scenes from a historical event and finalize recordings as an assignment for their course, and teachers reported that they would use the tool in their classrooms.

In Phase II, the researchers will focus on developing a select number of modules with characters from specific historical events, in-game exporting tools, and implementation activities to accompany the VR experience. After development is complete, the research team will conduct a pilot study to assess the feasibility and usability, fidelity of implementation, and the promise of the History Maker VR for improving student learning outcomes and teacher instructional practices in history. The study will include 30 middle school history classes with 900 students (30 students per class), with half of the classes randomly assigned to use History Maker VR over 3 weeks and half to follow business-as-usual activities. Researchers will compare students' pre-and-post scores for historical facts and skill to investigate and analyze events.

Product: History Maker VR is a playful virtual reality (VR) content-creation 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. History Maker VR is designed to scaffold creative storytelling, and to encourage embodied learning and for students to take pride in content creation. Students will use a variety of props (e.g., books, parchment, quills) during their VR performances and can play back their movements and voice recording from the Director's Booth in the audience. To access notes, talking points, or historical facts while in VR, students will pre-load text into a folder and then read notes on a teleprompter inside the environment. To share performances, content will be in a format that can be projected on a monitor for a class to watch or will be exported to a video file to be submitted as reports. History Maker VR intends to increase student engagement and knowledge of U.S. history and civics, their interest and enthusiasm for studying history and civics, and their historical thinking skills.