This week we looked into the world of virtual reality in education. At the beginning of the week I took the stance that there could be some benefits to implementing VR in the classroom as long as it was mixed with a healthy combination of traditional teaching. After this week of researching VR I don’t feel that my views have changed to any extreme, but I would say that now I better understand VR and it’s many uses and I could definitely see more potential for it in the classroom than I did before.
Toward the beginning of the week I talked about VR being used for training purposes for military, nurses and first responders. These scenarios made sense because I thought of VR as a way to prepare for situations that aren’t always trainable until they arise. Throughout the week I realized that although the training purpose is a great reason to use VR there are also great reasons to implement VR in the classroom.
One of the best motives to use VR with students is to get them learning in an environment in which they are familiar, comfortable and about which they are excited. With technology growing the way that it is and virtual worlds becoming more popular, students are becoming more interested in anything that relates to technology and may appear as a “game.” This is a great opportunity for teachers to get students excited about learning. During my research I came across the works of a professor who runs studies to prove that “gaming” or virtual reality can assist students in learning. This professor, Constance Steinkuehler, has many studies that she has done over the years. The one that stuck out to me the most was her study on relating gaming to teaching literacy especially in boys. Here is a link to a video of Dr. Steinkuehler talking about such concepts: http://vimeo.com/21897856
Another wonderful aspect of VR is the ability to experience things that may not otherwise be possible. During my research I found VR sites that allow you to explore Mars and the Moon, walk through museums around the world or even follow the Iditarod every step of the way. I even used a virtual field trip to Ellis Island to create a Social Studies lesson. Many of VR sites also allow students, through an avatar, to converse with “historical figures” and go on quests. I can only imagine that this would make learning about these historical figures so much more entertaining than reading about them in a book or listening to a teacher drone on about them. A quote from an article in the Washington Post sums it up virtual reality learning best by saying, “We're really excited about the application of skills, rather than rote learning or memorization of content. Twenty-first century success isn't based on what you know — it's based on what you learn, and how you acquire and apply those skills." (Fung, 2013)
Do I believe we should become a world where students put on headsets, attend a virtual school and interact virtually? No. I still believe there needs to be traditional aspects of education, but there is room for advancement through technology. I definitely see more ways to engage students through virtual reality than I may have known previously. Although many educators may still be uncertain of this type of teaching, I hope that they all start to see the benefits of combining (not doing a complete switch to, but combining) different types of virtual reality with traditional teaching.
Fung, B. (2013, November 26). SimCity wants to be the killer app of the classroom. Retrieved February 8, 2014, from WashingtonPost.com: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-switch/wp/2013/11/26/simcit...
Steinkuehler, C. (2011, April 4). constances.org. Retrieved February 6, 2014, from http://website.education.wisc.edu/steinkuehler/blog/