I really struggled this week to come up with a good opposing view of why Virtual Reality games or simulations shouldn’t be used for educational purposes.  I’m not sure why I struggled so much but as the technology teacher I felt I needed to have a good reason.  While other colleagues found reasons like a child’s change in behavior when playing in virtual worlds, taking on the characteristics of the avatars, distinguishing from real life and from video game life, and lack of face-to-face interaction.  I found that these were all reasons against some of the virtual reality games like “Call of Duty” that I wouldn’t allow in my classroom anyway.

 

I chose to focus on reason why virtual reality programs specific to simulations used in the classroom might cause issues that would prevent them being used for educational purposes.   I found that some students can get a type of motion sickness called “Cybersickness” when playing these games.  This is caused when two sensory stimuli disagree or do not match what is expected.  As a mother of a child who has suffered her whole life with motion sickness I can see why this might cause problems with integrating simulations that cause a lot of sensory overload.  Not all VR programs are like this however having an alternative option for students who may struggle with “Cybersickness” would be something I would suggest if using a VR program that has quick movements around a virtual reality world.  While this can be an issues, I do see that most students are not as affected as an adult may be in these situations.

 

Another reason that could cause educators to not implement VR programs would be the low self-esteem and feelings of worthlessness some students can feel especially if they struggle with successfully completing the task.  This can be addressed with cheat sheets that give clues to the completion of the game or allowing student collaboration when they are struggling to find their way through the task.  By allowing students to help or give clues to other classmates is beneficial two ways.  It give the struggling student a way to get help before they are so frustrated they give up and it gives the student who is helping a sense of pride in helping others.

 

With all of these issues, I still strongly believe that Virtual Reality programs and simulations can be successfully integrated into curriculum and can encourage engagement while offering visual understanding of how things work.  I’m also a strong proponent of creating simulations through programming.  I plan to integrate a simulation lesson where students will create a Contagion simulation.  This is a great way for students to learn first hand how different viruses would spread through a school.   With the simulation program and the ability to create variables that can be changed and data recorded showing how fast a virus would spread is a great example of how hands on and visually seeing the virus spread can help them understand the process.   I would use the Phet website to show the way data and variables are used to help understand the concept.  Students would also need to research different types of viruses and the rate that it spreads using the simulation to produce data on the spread of these viruses.

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