It’s not a dream, it’s not impossible. It is Virtual Reality (VR). We’re nicely settled in to the digital age, we’ve got educators on board with technology in the learning setting, but there’s a new frontier. It’s a seismic shift that will shake the very foundations of how we ‘do’ education: Virtual Reality.
2016 looks set to be the year that VR takes off and launches education in to a new dimension. Raconteur have predicted that this is the year that VR moves away from the shadows and in to the limelight in the classroom. And it’s easy to see why.
Virtual Reality and Education – The Shift
Change takes time to gain momentum. Education is traditionally slow to adapt to new learning methodology, requiring compelling reasons to move away from the norm. Faced with tight budgets and over-stretched educators, taking on board new technology is risky.
However, VR itself has undergone a massive shift. Once the preserve of the gamers, VR was limited in its capabilities. With better collaboration, and improving product design, that is no longer true. Virtual Reality can be integrated in to Reality, from the roots up. With programmes such as Google’s Expeditions Pioneer Program,
the big players are engaging VR with the world of education head on. Through this program children in schools worldwide are getting a one-day virtual class trip. They are seeing VR is action. They are getting a hands-on experience and liking what they see.
What Does Virtual Reality Bring to Education
The problem with traditional education models is a matter of numbers. What is the simplest, easiest way to educate the masses? The reality: classroom-based education. However, is this actually the best method of education for the individual? Does a child learn more on their twice-yearly trip to the museum, or producing maths results from personally collected data, or a singularly-delivered lesson in a classroom? What if you could bring the benefits of the hands-on learning of trips and real-life experience to the classroom without the logistics or expense needed of an educational trip. VR does just that.
Imagine sitting in a classroom in Scotland and taking a trip to The Great Wall of China, or sitting in a classroom in India and joining with Australian children on an exploration of history at the Colosseum in Rome. That’s what VR can do for education. It can pluck the disengaged digital age student from being slumped on the desk and transport them to a place where learning is fun, engaging, dynamic and retentive.
Immersive educational content through Virtual Reality not only offers insight in a way you simply can’t get in a classroom through traditional methods, it carries real impact. This immersive experience fosters learning retention that beats a text book or PowerPoint presentation hands down.
For example, two schools in the US are utilizing NearpodVR Virtual Reality Lesson Plans, via Google Cardboard, enabling the students to go on field trips that include the ancient pyramids of Egypt, caves on Easter Island, marine biomes of the Great Barrier Reef and even trips to Mars. These lesson plans are available right through the education system from the very youngest children up to school leaving age. (link: http://fortune.com/2016/02/25/school-districts-teaching-through-virtual-reality/). How can a classroom experience beat that? VR allows you to be taken out of the classroom without even leaving the building.
The Hurdles to VR in Education
As we know, educators can be resistant to change for various reasons, most notably cost, time and logistics.VR systems for education are not nearly as expensive as people may imagine from a point of little exposure. Technology has taken off, competition for market-share is coming in to play, and the result is affordable systems such as the Google Cardboard. Add in to this the free, or highly subsidized, global outreach that is currently underway by a vast number of VR firms, and it’s easier to reach than you may think.
The beauty of VR technology is that it is instinctive. There is no right or wrong. Convincing educators is unlikely to take little more than a demonstration of what VR can do. Seeing is believing. The logistics are not nearly as daunting as they may at first appear. For teaching staff this is a vital point. By delivering curriculum content through a VR program, we can free up teacher’s time to support the curriculum and provide hands-on supportive learning without them simply being spread too thin.
There is also the global parental and educators concern of screen time. However, it needs to be remembered that this is the digital generation. Screens are and will be an integral part of their lives, world and workplace. Incorporating technological advances alongside the best of traditional learning methods is the learning method of the future. How better to learn than contact and interaction with dimensional objects, properties, animals and environment, making the sciences such as biology, anatomy, geology and space science, ideal launchpads for VR education.
Virtual Reality in Education Beyond the School Gates
Virtual Reality in Education needn’t be restricted to school age pupils either. There is a place for education merging with VR tools in both adult education and career and workplace development. How better to keep learners engaged, fired up, and excited than placing them at the cutting edge of technology. How better to teach hands-on simulations without real-life risk?
Virtual Reality in Education – The Future
Virtual Reality is our Reality, it brings the reality of the diversity of all learning matters in to the hands and minds of everyone. It levels the playing field. As Arthur Goickhman, CEO of SurrealVR, (link: https://surre.al/) has said: “The ability to truly experience something as if it was real, be it a historic setting or the inner organs of our bodies, makes VR an unparalleled resource for education.” It is the future of the coming generations of learners.
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