As our class took a foray into the world of virtual reality, I found my thoughts mixed about the benefits of using it in the classroom. While I think that any technolgy that will help students learn is a good thing, I kind of thought that the research I did on the potential bad aspects of using tools like virtual reality in the classroom had merit. I think we have all witnessed the strange advent of the decline of social skills amount both children and adults alike when it comes to technology. Who among us hasn’t wanted to take a ringing cellphone away from someone at the dinner table or at a family gathering? Social skills just seem to be a thing of the past for too many of us. This was one of the views in an article I researched about the use of VR in the classroom. It seems to me that children are the most susceptible to the downside of what it means to be social when it comes to speaking with adults and peers. If there is some truth to these fears, they would be affected the most.
That being said, I must say I was quite impressed with some of the virtual tools that can be used in the classroom. Most of these had to do with older students, like the CAVE project where students can go inside a living being and take a tour of the respiratory system, for example. There was also a simulator that took students on a tour of various landscapes and places, which could be used when learning about the colonists or explorers. However, there was one simulator called the 3D project that I felt would work well for younger students. Each of these simulators offered a way for students to witness first-hand some aspects of what we are trying to teach. When a student has a chance to get inside one of these simulators it offers a real-world application that they cannot get from reading a textbook or completing a research paper. I think the trick is to make sure we instill the importance of using these tools as a learning experience rather than just a way to have fun. This is where we have to be very careful about what simulators we allow in the classroom. As with anything else we use in the classroom, we must explore the implications of the technology and determine if the benefits outweighs the negative consequences. Most importantly, I think it is imperative of us to lead by example. If students see that we are using these technologies as learning tool, they too will follow suit.