VR in the classroom

Interactive tech could make learning fun again.

Classrooms aren’t what they used to be

Pen, pencil and a notepad? Those may have been the tools of the trade for elementary, high school and university students back in the 20th century but today, modern classrooms resemble computer or research labs more closely. Equipped with the latest edtech gadgets, ranging from laptops and tablets to sophisticated IoT devices, they aim to facilitate learning. This trend reflects not only the sizeable advances in technology we have experienced in virtually all areas of life in the past two decades, but also the inclination of digital natives to incorporate it into everything they do, including the way they study and learn.

Interactive learning

The proliferation of virtual and augmented reality tech has led to its rapid adoption at different levels of education. As VR headsets become more affordable and most students are tethered to their smartphones virtually 24x7, it’s easy to immerse in the dynamic, interactive features these fantasy-like environments can offer. In the olden days, teachers would have to show images, videos or slides to illustrate concepts and ideas, and back this up with stories and examples to land a point. How much better could be presenting students with a realistic, 3D pterodactyl model that they can inspect from all sides and interact with, as if it was on display in the very middle of their classroom? Thanks to VR and AR tools like Microsoft Hololens, this is now a realistic teaching scenario.  

A tool for each learning style

Just like there are visual and auditory learners, there are also sensory (kinesthetic) learners who prefer gaining knowledge by inspecting their environment first-hand. Whereas previously this used to be a costly endeavor, VR has made even the most abstract of concepts possible to visualize or experience for young learners. This is especially helpful in humanitarian subjects but also in science – history, geography, biology, chemistry, physics can all benefit from holographic or virtual representations of established or hypothetical models.

ClassVR is one example of a virtual reality solution that’s being widely adopted in schools. It aims to raise engagement in classrooms and increase students’ knowledge retention – challenges many schools and instructors are experiencing on a global scale. As students’ attention spans get shorter and attention deficit disorders become widely recognized and diagnosed, educators are struggling to keep up with traditional teaching methods and aids. One thing is certain: to capture the attention of tomorrow’s pupils, new, exciting tools will be required. Gamification has been successfully used in various educational institutions of all age levels, and VR tech is closely related to this. Educators can no longer get by with long, dry, oral lectures – they must create and reinvent their teaching styles to evolve along with students’ changing patterns of knowledge acquisition and retention.

Future VR applications in education

Of course, VR is yet to be fully adopted in classrooms as usage is still low. Adoption rates are directly linked to the cost of VR software and hardware, as well as the technological aptitude of school boards and educators. Whereas kids today are raised with technology, this is most often not the case for those in charge of educating them. For teachers and professors to incorporate VR or AR in their teaching curricula, they would need to get comfortable with the tech first. There may be a steep learning curve for some of them, and in those cases, train-the-trainer programs can help.                                 

Experience vs. content

Rather than using VR tech for simply delivering one-way content in a new way, educators should think about devising entire experiences around interactive learning – hands-on sessions can ensure higher student engagement and facilitate more personalized learning. Schools need to also consider incorporating VR into classrooms as an engagement tool rather than a panacea that’s likely to solve all discipline or learning issues faced by the teaching body. Adoption should be carefully planned and carried out in phases. The right tools need to be selected, and in some cases custom-developed to fit the specific goals of each program or curriculum.

Let us know how you’re utilizing interactive tech for teaching @pegusapps.

Copywriter: Ina Danova

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