Virtual reality was once relegated to fiction, a dream only accomplished in fantastic worlds far from home or our time. Science fiction was riddled with examples of humans living in virtual realities, some we could control, while others we could not.
Virtual reality isn’t the stuff of dreamers any more.
Not only can virtual reality be used for its most popular purpose, video gaming, but it also has the potential to become a valuable asset for education now and in the future.
So, let’s plug into this Matrix and find out how virtual reality will educate students into the future!
The Power of Visuals
The lecture system is an ineffective method of teaching. Time explains: “Research on human attention and retention speaks against the value of long lectures.” Researchers cited in the article found that average students could only hold their attention to a lecture for 18 minutes — no matter how intriguing the subject. In fact, auditory teaching in of itself doesn’t appeal to most students; a strong majority (65%) of the population is comprised of visual learners. We are failing them.
Virtual reality is all about immersing yourself into the visual and auditory stimuli of your game, movie, or other subject material. Through virtual reality we can visualize and hear a whole new world around us in a way that is integrative and interesting, which allows for more lessons learned and applied.
Rather than sitting in a classroom and listening to the teacher drone on and on about a particular subject, this virtual reality allows students the ability to experience the lesson in a way that challenges them in an interactive setting. The hands on experience makes for a higher potential for lesson retention.
Different Types of Lessons
The beauty of virtual reality is the ability to do or learn anything so long as it is available on the internet, making the possibilities endless. These lessons includes science, math, history, geography, and many others. Here are a few sample lessons:
– Virtual Venus: Use digital telescopes and renditions to observe Venus and its surface
– Explore the Oceans: Dive into the oceans of the world to learn all about the different marine biomes
– Astronomy and Me: Moons Over New Haven: Students study and explore the moons orbiting all of the different planets in our solar system.
– Is It Physical or Chemical?: Students review the physical and chemical changes of matter
Tech and Engineering
– LKDF Interact – Diesel Engine Operation: Explore the functions and build of a diesel engine
– Virtual Reality Construction Project: Students participate in a construction project
Learning Complex Equations
History of Warsaw
Virtual Field Trips
Field trips are an administrative headache for schools, parents, and students. There are budgets to go over, liability issues, bus schedules, permission slips, and potential student fundraisers to make it happen. Virtual reality eliminates many of these hassles by providing these adventures right inside the classroom.
On a traditional field trip, a journey to Mars or to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean simply isn’t possible, but with virtual reality, any of these adventures are possible. Expeditions Pioneer Program, Google Cardboard, and Nearpod create programs specifically designed for the classroom to teach all sorts of subjects and take students on all kinds of virtual field trips.
Nearpod already has a vast library of VR field trips to choose from, many of which are free.
The Future of Virtual Reality
BigThink rightfully calls virtual reality the “savior” of education:
However, in the last couple hundred years, much of our education has lacked this traditional depth. The rise of verbal and book-based education has distanced us from the subjects at hand – reducing our understanding and our motivation to learn. But, with the rise of new virtual reality (VR) technologies, we now have a chance of bringing embodied learning back to everyday life.
By immersing students visually into their lessons, it will create a connection that some books just cannot reach. By experiencing events first hand and visualizing the concepts and problems we are trying to solve, students will gain a better understanding of their world around them.
In the coming years, virtual reality is slated to become more physical, opting for sensors track the user’s movements. This attention to physical movement provides an even deeper experience, creating the potential for students to interact with their virtual lessons like never before.
These developments are coming first on the gaming side of VR with sets such as the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, and the Playstation VR, but if history is any indicator, eventually these technologies will become more commonplace for classroom use.
While virtual reality is cost prohibitive for some schools, it won’t be forever. As technology adoption increases, the more affordable it will become. If you can spare the budget for this technology, it is worth exploring and finding the best applications to teach your students.
Have you tried virtual reality in the classroom? What worked and what didn’t? Let us know in the comments below!