Ed shouldn't invest heavily in VR yet, but experimentation is key
- Virtual reality technology can immerse students in environments they otherwise wouldn't be able to visit, though a professor and expert at Carnegie Mellon University says that the focus for districts should still be on experimentation over major investment in the tech, according to The Hechinger Report.
- Jesse Schell, Carnegie Mellon professor and Schell Games founder and CEO, says the technology is particularly useful when educators need to immerse students in "something that is difficult to visualize," ranging from things as literal as a volcanic eruption to abstract ideas.
- Ongoing challenges include not only cost and the availability of content, but concerns about tethering students to a device, the lack of interaction between students and motion sickness.
VR, as well as related technologies like augmented and mixed reality, have significant potential for K-12. But the technology is still at a stage where, just as desktop and laptop computers once were, the cost of entry is still prohibitively expensive on a broad scale. The breadth of content to take advantage of is also still limited due to the technology's relative youth. Still, there are opportunities for schools to experiment, as Schell suggested.
Google, for instance, has made virtual field trips to inaccessible locations easier for history and social studies classes with its Cardboard viewers used in conjunction with the Expeditions app. And technologies like zSpace have expanded opportunities in STEM subjects with virtual interactive dissections, diagrams and experiments.
As these technologies mature and their costs lower, they'll likely become key tools in educators' toolboxes to provide realistic simulations for both technical skills and social-emotional learning soft skills. Those with the means to explore them now can help set the stage to better assist those not yet there when that time comes.
- The Hechinger Report How one high-poverty district is adding virtual reality to its classrooms
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