For Christmas I became the lucky recipient of the Samsung Gear VR. I use the Gear VR with my Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge. I wanted to be just like the people I saw in the commercial, impressed and stunned by the images they saw and mesmerized by the “virtual reality” of the games and applications.
As selfish as I was to play games, watch movies, and view various video clips on the device, as an educator, I was immediately attracted to the numerous applications and videos dedicated for the education marketplace.
For example, there is an application that allows you to ride along in a miniature vehicle the size of a blood cell and float throughout the body learning about major organs. Or the 3D VR walkthrough of the brain showing each lobe and how neurons are created.
In addition to the applications, there are numerous videos and learning modules available which can take the learner to ancient Rome, the Civil War, or walking with dinosaurs. Clearly, classroom teachers cannot replicate this kind of learning with lectures, foldables, or basic Internet searches. VR capability can open up a new platform for learning.
Research is showing that taking education to this level can improve performance. VR education also provides students with a learning platform that mimics the speed of access the “screen time” generation is most used to. This platform is useful for students who suffer from ADD or have a visual-spatial learning style. These aspects of VR obviously cannot be replicated in the traditional classroom setting and provide true differentiation for students who are kinesthetic.
Although the gaming industry is largely interested in expanding the VR universe, the education marketplace is getting some attention as well. Right now, it appears that some video applications appear to be novelty items. For example, you can stand on a Jai-Lai court and experience the ball whizzing by your face at over 150 miles per hour. This is great the first couple of times you watch it but the effect and the intent of video quickly wears off. Education application should evolve to provide the immersive content you would expect from a virtual reality experience while at the same time providing the instructional purpose and integration as intended by non-technical curriculums such as History Alive!
VR certainly has a future in education. The technology is moving quickly to provide teachers with content that is relevant to 21st century curriculum and in line with making learning relevant and rigorous. It is going to take a flood of ideas, coupled with more access to the technology for students,to help improve the industry. When these stars finally align, the entire education industry will most certainly shift and provide a level of learning for students that Socrates could have only dreamed of.