Co-Founder and COO at VR Vision Inc an immersive technology group that is developing virtual and augmented reality solutions for the future.
In a world driven by technology, classrooms have adapted to an ever-changing landscape to create new educational experiences. With the emergence of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technologies, leaders in the education industry can consider adding more immersive and integrative experiences. (Full disclosure: My company offers these technologies, as do many others.)
Immersive learning is a contemporary learning style that uses technology to engage your senses that a traditional lecture might not be able to accomplish. There are four basic categories of learning styles that most students fall under: visual, auditory, reading/writing and kinetic.
Classic lectures typically engage auditory and written learning styles, with the occasional use of visuals to illustrate a point. This method works for many different subjects, while other subjects, like the sciences, could benefit from the inclusion of lab experiments’ kinetic elements.
In the same way that a photo or video can help students visualize a challenging concept, immersive learning can add new elements to the standardized curriculum and engage the senses. There are many different ways to create an immersive learning experience, including a virtual tour of the human body to help students learn about anatomy — kind of like a real-life version of The Magic School Bus.
How Can VR Be Used In The Classroom?
VR is a computer-generated environment that can be experienced from all angles. Two mediums are typically used for VR. One form is through a computer, where students can click around the digital environment and zoom in on any spots they are most interested in. A notable example of this form of VR is the Street View feature on Google Maps.
The other form is through a special headset that blocks your peripheral vision while projecting video imaging into each eye, making you feel like you are inside the virtual world. The headset device can look like a gaming device or be as simple as creating a cardboard holder to place a smartphone in.
VR can provide a fun learning experience in the classroom and allow students to view environments or periods that they otherwise would not be able to see. For example, students could take a virtual tour of the pyramids in Egypt in history class or take a trip through the digestive tract in science class. These technologies can also allow students to choose their adventure or which parts of the tour they spend more time on. VR can be a helpful tool for dissections, as some students might prefer to do a virtual dissection rather than the real thing.
How Can AR Be Used In The Classroom?
AR is a form of technology that allows you to add digital images to the real world. This can be done through apps on AR-compatible smartphones, which will let you look through your phone’s camera lens to view the augmented images on your smartphone screen.
The most notable example of AR’s use was the 2016 mobile game Pokémon Go, which allowed the app to access your camera so that you could see Pokémon creatures in the real world.
Because AR is rooted in reality, it can be used in addition to classical teaching styles. With AR, students can use their smartphones to see comments or labels on diagrams and have the option to read more about something they need further clarification. Teachers can show their students the solar system in their classroom or 3D models of objects to study up close without storing and transporting them.
How Is This Beneficial?
There are a number of ways that I’ve observed the education industry can use immersive technologies to help students learn.
1. Increase Engagement: Immersive learning techniques can give students exciting new ways to interact with their environment. VR and AR help students visualize what they are learning and make them feel like they are experiencing it as they learn.
2. Cater To Learning Styles: VR and AR tools can help students who are more visual and kinetic learners get more out of their lectures. VR can also have auditory elements, and you can always have students talk about and write down their experiences to engage students who learn best through listening and reading or writing.
3. Bring History to Life: With VR, students can be transported to a different era. This technology can flesh out their perception of history in ways that their imaginations might not be able to when reading about it.
4. Make Information Memorable: Most students remember the projects they researched or lab experiments they participated in. Using VR and AR can also stand out in students’ memories and help them retain the information they learned.
5. Controlling The Learning Experience: Using VR can allow students to choose what elements of the simulation they focus on and spend the most time on. This experience can help them understand a concept they need more information on or find what field of study they are most interested in.
What Technological Improvements Still Need To Occur?
Adopting AR and VR doesn’t come without its own challenges that educational facilitators should be aware of when implementing the technology at scale. Firstly with VR, the hardware could be expensive, or there may not be readily available content for the topics being taught. Also, new advancements in technology are happening at a fast pace with new hardware available every year, so this needs to be considered when budgeting for the life span of the technology.
With AR the same can be said with technology advancements. However, with modern smartphones and LiDAR, more people than ever before have access to AR in the palm of their hands. The challenge here lies with facilitators staying ahead of the curve and trends to know how to maximize the effectiveness of the technology.
Technology has a significant impact on the classroom curriculum, and VR and AR are no exception to this rule. Leaders in education can bring in new technologies that can help students who need the supplemented visual to grasp a topic comprehensively.
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Co-Founder and COO at VR Vision Inc an immersive technology group that is developing virtual and augmented reality solutions for the future. Read Lorne Fade’s full