This week I spent time researching and exploring the use of virtual reality in the classroom. This is a very new idea for me. A lot of my time was spent on discovering what is meant by virtual reality, what that looks like in the classroom, and the benefits of incorporating virtual simulations into teaching. As I researched this topic I found myself asking how can I use virtual reality in the classroom and how will it benefit my students. I am not sure that I have fully answered this question, but I did begin to gain a better understanding of what virtual reality means and some of the benefits it brings to teaching.
I discovered that virtual reality programs can mean that students are collaborating in different ways. Students become engaged in what they are learning and students who struggle to be in engaged in content such as literacy may become reengaged through the use of virtual environments. Virtual worlds can provide students with new opportunities to participate in class.
Although I found benefits to virtual reality in the classroom I do not feel that it provides a better learning experience for students than real world experiences. I think that virtual reality can help to provide new opportunities to kids that may otherwise not exist. For instance students can visit the world of Ancient Rome or interact with influential people that are no longer living. I do find that this to be a benefit to virtual reality and I think as time goes on the technology available for simulating these types of situations will begin to get even better. However, I think that real life experiences will always trump virtual experiences. A surgeon can learn the steps for a surgical procedure through a virtual simulation, but what is done in the surgery room cannot be completely replicated and a virtual simulation cannot be set up to completely match real world. It is the real world, hands on experiences that, in my opinion, provide the better learning experience.
It will be interesting to see over the next ten years how virtual reality will change and grow. I do think that it will become more prevalent in classroom instruction. I think it will continue to grow in higher education and be used more frequently in job training programs. I believe that the benefits for its use will increase and more and more classroom teachers will seek out the tools in order to bring virtual reality into the classroom. That being said, I do not think it will ever replace real world experiences.