Monday, 27 November 2017

VR will greatly enhance learning

Virtual Reality will greatly enhance learning

By 2025 an estimated 5 million students will be using VR

An amazing development was recently reported in the local newspaper that helped sick children cope with MRI scans and unpleasant medical procedures without sedation. The local hospital in partnership with the local university developed a virtual reality (VR) programme to relieve young patient’s anxieties and fear prior to and during these procedures. Using the VR programme they achieved a 90% success rate!

Another useful application of VR is being developed at Carnegie Mellon University where they are developing a virtual peer named Alex who has been helping children with autism to integrate storytelling and learning and to develop science reasoning and science discourse.

So, what is VR? Virtual reality is fully immersive, the world as you know it is gone and a completely simulated experience is presented to you. Apparently, the key to all successful VR is ‘presence’, that is, you effectively forget the real world and feel completely absorbed into the digital experience. Modern VR technology is able to mimic your movements from the real world into the digital and allows the viewer to feel as though they are in the virtual world.

VR is sometimes called the ‘Empathy Machine’ as it has the ability, through storytelling, to develop empathy in the viewer as opposed to film which asks the viewer to relate to a character’s emotions. One powerful example of this is Lynette Wallworth’s VR experience ‘Collisions’ (as sited in Idealog, Winter, 2017).

 So, how can this purposefully impact in the classroom? Biology for example, is usually taught through textbooks, slides, video and drawings but start up company The Body VR are taking an immersive approach to education, letting you travel the human body in person and actively interact with it.

Another example is Medivis, who are redefining anatomy learning building an entire learning platform that allows you to visualise the human body in a fully 3D, life size, holographic format, accurately tagging every single piece of your body – no need for books, drawings, or expensive cadavers!

Ok, so back to the school classroom – what will this look like and how can it positively impact learning?

An educational pioneer in VR is zSpace:

zSpace is an immersive learning experience that allows students to interact with objects and understand the concepts behind them. Students can complete group or individual complex tasks in a natural and intuitive manner. For example, students can experiment virtually using Franklin’s Lab, then use their new skills to design real-world electricity boards in the tech room, and then take the design back to VR to improve and build on their design using virtual tools that would otherwise be too dangerous.

A pioneering school district in New York, Plainview – Old Bethpage Central School District, began using zSpace in 2014 and report that students now give more detailed responses to questions, are more engaged in classroom dialogue and ask deeper questions about learning. They report student engagement as being ‘off the charts’.

As Elizabeth Reede wrote in 2016:

Educators and students alike are seeking an ever-expanding immersive landscape, where students engage with teachers and each other in transformative experiences through a wide spectrum of interactive resources. In this educational reality, VR has a definitive place of value.

Perhaps the most utopian application of this technology will be seen in terms of bridging cultures and fostering understanding among young students.

And, the final crucial word goes to Michael Fullan who so aptly states:

Pedagogy is the driver, technology is the acceleration

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