Beginning this week’s learning, I was definitely an advocate of using virtual worlds in the classroom. I thought it would be difficult to find resources that emphasized the disadvantages of virtual realities. However, there is a lot of research that points to potential pitfalls of using virtual environments.
I found that just about every advantage could be spun into a disadvantage and vice-a-versa. To me, virtual worlds seem to be a matter of opinion. A more liberal educator wanting to take risks and put in the time to figure out how these digital tools can support education can work around the disadvantages.
Cyberbullying, security, privacy and desensitization can become major issues in virtual learning. So, we must choose to avoid virtual learning because of fear or choose to embrace these environments and use them to raise productive digital citizens. We can work with our students to educate them so these issues become non-issues.
I never thought virtual reality should completely replace face-to-face social interactions. However, it wasn’t until I did my research that I found there can be a lot of psychological consequences to too much virtual learning. Students can become isolated from peers, which is the opposite of why I would even want to use these educational platforms. I believe the virtual worlds should be a bridge between place and time, not a wall between students and reality.
Having a clear understanding of disadvantages of virtual learning will actually help me when I propose using them at my school. Many teachers are more resistant to technology integration and already being able to anticipate their concerns will make me more relatable. I can offer solutions to their concerns (like AUPs and Digital Citizenship lessons). I truly believe it is our responsibility to embrace the challenges virtual realities present because without our guidance at school, our students will face the challenges on their own. I would like to be somebody who helps equip students with the skills and experiences they need to be productive global and digital citizens.
While I will not replace traditional face-to-face interactions completely, I will continue to blend learning. Using virtual realities does motivate students and helps them connect in ways they cannot with traditional learning strategies alone. Mostly, I will be using simulations to appeal to the visual interests of students and make learning more interactive. In addition, social networking in a private online classroom will be a way to support student collaboration. However, I’m not ready to use avatars or virtual environments like MineCraft.