Although virtual reality for education is not a new topic, we are now finding more and more news about emerging technologies finding their way into the mainstream system. A modality formerly reserved for higher education and international universities, there’s been a surge in proposals for younger students, including bicoastal reports of teachers in elementary levels test-driving this fascinating technology. It’s no surprise that VR was a centerpiece at CES this year.
Education Week reported this week about a social studies teacher in Pittsburg who spent a recent Friday traveling the world. In an interview, the teacher excitedly reported to have zoomed past the Christ the Redeemer statue towering above Rio de Janeiro. Moments before, he hovered over the streets of Florence and Rome.
During a training a training event about applications of virtual reality for education, the social studies teacher found many cool and imaginative uses for his kids to enjoy learning while leveraging this novel technology. “It would be cool if you had kids try and find landmarks,” he said, still immersed in a virtual world. This is the first of several sessions designed to help teachers think critically about how to plan lessons around virtual reality activities and ensure the exercises have real educational value.
Various companies have jumped on the VR bandwagon, proposing that virtual reality tools and presenting equipment such as the (low-end) Google Cardboard or the (high-end) HTC Vive. Company executives sustain that the technology can benefit a wide-ranging student population, including students with special needs. The multi-sensory nature of virtual reality, a fully immersive visual and aural experience, could help to engage students at a range of points on the autism spectrum by giving them a safe space to explore and experiment with different activities, he said.
Currently, the biggest hurdle schools face is acquiring the technology, due to budget limitations. While Google Cardboard headsets cost around $8-$15 per device, each user also needs a smartphone equipped with applications to run virtual reality videos. Meanwhile, high-end devices could cost several hundred dollars and must be used with a compatible computer. In addition, all of this requires internet access. Internet speed and safety restrictions could be obstacles in some districts.
Moreover, many education professionals think the adoption process will also be met with resistance from educators and parents who think that abuse of technology (even more so when young students are faced with such a drastic alternate reality) could alter their natural perception of the world.
Challenges aside, many teachers are confident that their students would be on board with virtual reality activities. The next step, for teachers, is making sure that students are prepared to learn something along the way.
Parents / Teachers: What do you think about virtual reality for education? Join the conversation in the forums or comment below. More info: Read the full original article in Education Week.