By Teachers, For Teachers
Do you have access to virtual reality (VR) or are you considering getting it for your school or classroom? Then a new world is about to open up for you. Yes, that is a terrible pun, but that doesn’t make it any less true. VR offers new opportunities in technology in the classroom and learning that we’ve never seen before. In the years and decades ahead, it’s going to revolutionize how we teach in a way no other technology in the classroom has to date. In this article, we’re only going to cover some of the technology in the classroom things you can do right now or in the immediate future. The truth is, however, that we’re going to see things happening in the near future which are going to change things far more dramatically. So even before I continue with the rest of this article I suggest you make the jump: For the future is bright indeed.
OK, it doesn’t beat an actual field trip. But then, some places are expensive and hard to get to. For example, if you’re in the U.S., it’s hard to physically take your kids to the Louvre, the killing fields in Cambodia, or the moon. But with virtual reality, that becomes something you can do right there and then, during the class, and with enough time left over for your kids to get to their next class at the sound of the bell.
The great thing about a virtual field trip is that it really does feel like you’re really there. You can look left and right and focus on what gets your attention. In that way, it turns it from a passive into an active experience, and therefore make it far more likely that your kids are going to remember the experience.
This can even be used to create the possibility for your students to visit other communities so they can walk a mile in their shoes. In this way, they can experience what life is like for less fortunate people, as well as communities who have been struck with disaster – thereby widening their circle of empathy considerably.
Even better is the possibility to go places that people can’t go or where they can’t survive. Do you want to see the bottoms of the ocean? Well, that’s possible. Do you want to see what it was like in ancient Rome? That too can be done. Heck, you can even go into the imagined future of science fiction writers and thinkers, as long as somebody is willing to take the time to build the place.
In this way, virtual reality makes it possible for students to see things that otherwise they wouldn’t be able to. And nothing quite fires the imagination than taking a walk across the sun.
It isn’t just possible to go to places. It’s also possible to build your own. And that creates some amazing opportunities for anybody with even an inch of creativity. People will be able to build things that obey the laws of physics or not and in that way experiment with things like building bridges or buildings in ways that are much harder to do outside of a virtual environment.
Even better, whatever they build they can then walk through and take other people to. This means that an entirely different way of expressing yourself is suddenly available to your students. And the earlier they encounter these things, the more of a head start they will have.
One of the biggest problems most students have is deciding what they want to do in their lives. And so, we want to give them as many opportunities to try out new activities and jobs as they can. Virtual reality is the perfect place to try out such things. Do they want to try their hand at medicine? Well, try treating these virtual patients! Do they want to be engineers? Then let them try to build virtual bridges!
Heck, you can do nearly anything in a virtual space. The only limit is one’s imagination. So they can try their hand at essay writing, working in the post office, or even fixing sewers. If it’s built, people will come. Even better, by the time they leave school, they’ll have a much better idea of what interests them and what they want to do afterwards to get them there.
Because virtual reality allows you to recreate special situations, this means that students with special needs can get huge advantages out of it. For example, if they struggle with social situations, then they can run through the same situation until they get to really understand what’s going on and can maneuver their way through to their desired outcome – all while feeling it’s really going on.
This kind of practice can make a huge difference to such children. That’s why some schools are really experimenting with this technique.
VR makes things possible. That’s the short of it. And as the classroom is otherwise often quite limited by its size and the many restrictions that have we’ve introduced through law, VR offers us the opportunity to escape these and see the world beyond the window and beyond the reality that we are aware of.
This means that we can do things, be things, and go places that otherwise would have been beyond us. The more mature the technology becomes, the more amazing these places will be. Those are awesome opportunities – especially for students as getting exposure to technologies like these at a younger age is going to give them a serious leg up and allow them to know these worlds and use them towards their own ends.
Because ultimately, the most exciting thing isn’t the places we can already go in VR, but instead the undiscovered country. Those places that these students will themselves create and invent and therefore open up to our exploration. That’s where the real excitement lies.