Virtual and Augmented Reality in the Classroom
By Rodney Guzman, CEO/Co-Founder/Owner at InterKnowlogy
Last week I was asked to participate in a Sally Ride Science STEAM Series discussion about the state of virtual and augmented reality in the classroom. Creating new ways to learn with VR and AR is interesting to ponder, especially with the recent Apple announcements with their new phone. But where are we really with all this new technology? Many are too eager to throw technology at problems, especially without understanding the current limitations of hardware and software. Consider that, especially in education today, VR and AR solutions are designed to entice students to engage with content. That can work today because not everyone has experienced these types of solutions, so there is “newcomer” excitement. But that will pass, especially after Apple and Google have their respective mobile stores littered with disposable AR apps. There will be a mad rush for companies to have an AR presence and they will deploy thousands of apps with simple AR objects for people to see in their living rooms. While VR and AR are exciting, it has the danger of becoming a passing fad because the vast majority of the experiences will be focused on just showing content in 3D. In education, there will be no transformation of how students process information and learn if all we are showing is 3D content for enticement.
So the question without an easy answer is how can we leverage AR and VR to transform the learning process? All of us reading this article right now have been learning in 2D for a long time. Consider the textbooks we use, and the digital text-based content we are delivering. Reading information in 2D offers is what we are accustomed to. If we work to retain the information, we can build mental models of understanding and store this information. If we are new to the topics it might take some to build these models, but if we are more seasoned then we simply embellish the models we have already created with the new knowledge. We are all used to this and we do it quite well. But what if there is a more productive way to learn? Consider for a moment how spatial humans are. In the STEAM Series discussion, I offered a quick thought experiment of imagining where your socks are in your house. You can close your eyes and walk in the front door of your home, and make your way through your house right where your socks are. We are spatial animals that are pre-built to store information in 3D. What if we could present information in VR and AR in way that is more naturally for us to learn in this spatial manner? Rather than creating mental models from 2D text-based information, what if information is learned in 3D. This is the true future of VR and AR in the classroom.
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