Opinion
Education Opinion

Virtual Reality Could Transform Education as We Know It

By Matthew Lynch — April 03, 2017 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Virtual reality has been on the radar since Morton Heilig’s Sensorama in the 1950s, and head mounted versions of the technology were even around in the 1960s. But it wasn’t until recently that its use has become less of a novelty and more of a commonality. Console games and smartphone adapters have brought the potential of virtual reality into the lives of everyday people. And soon, that technology will enter the classroom.

Now, the big question is how these emerging technologies will transform education as we know it. While that question might not be fully answered for some time, it is easy to see the potential.

Full Immersion

The benefits of full immersion are well documented for the learning of foreign languages. Not only does it expose the student to the language in a natural way, but it also helps them ultimately function like a native speaker.

Virtual reality offers the ability to become fully immersed in a subject. Graphical representations are presented in 3-D, and the system is designed to respond to the body movements of the participant. More sophisticated systems allow the student to control a virtual representation of themselves, often referred to as an avatar, and even lets them interact with the virtual world around them.

By being an active participant in the learning environment, students have the opportunity to engage at a new level. And the increased engagement and more natural approach might increase the rate of learning and retention.

Safe Experimentation

When properly programmed, virtual reality environments can mimic real-world conditions. This means new items can be designed and examined for effectiveness or even safety. For example, experiments in physics can be constructed virtually. If a student “builds” something based on an incorrect calculation, faulty assumption, or is simply interested in how an event will play out, the virtual model can be constructed and used without any actual risk to the student involved.

This increases the ability to learn through experimentation, including creating a safe space for experimentation that has potentially dangerous consequences in the real world. It also allows them to see the results of failed experiments in a way that promotes learning.

Virtual reality also allows for deeper explorations of biology and anatomy by using accurate renderings instead of real-life dissection. For younger students, this can bring access to advanced concepts without having to deal with the implications of actual dissections in the classroom.

Experience Different Times and Places

Field trips in schools have helped expose students to new ideas and environments. Historical reenactments at sites like Jamestown and Colonial Williamsburg bring visitors into a different time to help them understand, at least superficially, what like was like for original settlers. Often, students are limited to experiences within a manageable range of their home area. But virtual reality could change that.

Virtual reality has the potential to allow students to explore international locations and could be used to simulate different time periods. This expands the concept of the field trip into full immersion experiences that do not have to be limited by time or space.

The same concepts can be used in biology, botany, and other natural sciences. Students can explore sites that would be much too treacherous for an actual journey. Children could explore the Amazon rain forest or take a trip down the Nile without having to worry about unexpected events that could cause harm.

Bring Students Together

As the technology improves, the ability to bring students into a single environment, even if they are from different schools, states, or countries, can help connect students to their larger world. This gives them the opportunity to learn from people they may otherwise never have met. A broader virtual world could expand their horizons and may promote more diverse collaboration in the future.

While we are still only scratching the surface of what virtual reality can do in an educational environment, the potential exists for it to change education as we know it.

The opinions expressed in Education Futures: Emerging Trends in K-12 are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

Events

Classroom Technology Webinar How Pandemic Tech Is (and Is Not) Transforming K-12 Schools
The COVID-19 pandemic—and the resulting rise in virtual learning and big investments in digital learning tools— helped educators propel their technology skills to the next level. Teachers have become more adept at using learning management
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Building Teacher Capacity for Social-Emotional Learning
Set goals that support adult well-being and social-emotional learning: register today!


Content provided by Panorama
Jobs October 2021 Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Tiny Wrists in Cuffs: How Police Use Force Against Children
An investigation finds children as young as 6 and a disproportionate amount of Black children have been handled forcibly by police officers.
15 min read
Jhaimarion, 10, reacts as he listens to his mother, Krystal Archie talking with an Associated Press reporter in Chicago on Sept. 23, 2021. Archie’s three children were present when police, on two occasions, just 11 weeks apart, kicked open her front door and tore through their home searching for drug suspects. She’d never heard of the people they were hunting. Her oldest child, Savannah was 14 at the time; her youngest, Jhaimarion, was seven. They were ordered to get down on the floor.
Jhaimarion, 10, reacts as he listens to his mother, Krystal Archie talking with an Associated Press reporter in Chicago on Sept. 23, 2021. Archie’s three children were present when police, on two occasions, just 11 weeks apart, kicked open her front door and tore through their home searching for drug suspects. She’d never heard of the people they were hunting. Her oldest child, Savannah was 14 at the time; her youngest, Jhaimarion, was seven. They were ordered to get down on the floor.
Nam Y. Huh/AP
Education Gunman in 2018 Parkland School Massacre Pleads Guilty
A jury will decide whether Nikolas Cruz will be executed for one of the nation’s deadliest school shootings.
3 min read
Annika Dworet and her husband, Mitch Dworet, wipe away tears as their son's name is read aloud during Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz's guilty plea on all 17 counts of premeditated murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the 2018 shootings, at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. on Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021. The Dworet's son, Nicholas Dworet, 17, was killed in the massacre.
Annika Dworet and her husband, Mitch Dworet, wipe away tears as their son's name is read aloud during Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz's guilty plea on all 17 counts of premeditated murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the 2018 shootings, at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. on Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021. The Dworet's son, Nicholas Dworet, 17, was killed in the massacre.
Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun Sentinel via AP
Education Briefly Stated: October 20, 2021
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Gunman in Parkland School Massacre to Plead Guilty
The gunman who killed 14 students and three staff members at a Florida high school will plead guilty to their murders, his attorneys said.
4 min read
Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz is sworn in before pleading guilty, Friday, Oct. 15, 2021, at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on all four criminal counts stemming from his attack on a Broward County jail guard in November 2018, Cruz's lawyers said Friday that he plans to plead guilty to the 2018 massacre at a Parkland high school.
Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz is sworn in before pleading guilty, Friday, Oct. 15, 2021, at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on all four criminal counts stemming from his attack on a Broward County jail guard in November 2018, Cruz's lawyers said Friday that he plans to plead guilty to the 2018 massacre at a Parkland high school.
Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun Sentinel via AP