Article Illustrations New Waysof Teaching

There’s a multitude of reasons why teachers are integrating virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) into their classrooms – most of them focused on learning outcomes. But for teachers the power also lies in generating new ways of teaching.

This can only be a good thing! As society evolves and students’ needs with it, so too must the classroom – as only teachers truly appreciate. There’s no faster way to lose student engagement than by relying on an out-dated teaching method.

Chalk and talk, anyone?

Most teachers pride themselves on establishing a culture of creativity in the classroom. It doesn’t matter the subject being taught. Teachers are generally innovators. They help students solve problems and develop their ideas.

Teachers are also driven to instil a love of life-long learning in their students – and while this doesn’t always take, there are now new tools available that are having that very effect.

As the latest innovation in education, this emerging technology offers students immersion in never before experienced realities. With content there to walk through and interact with, students’ brains are firing in new ways.

Dubbed the ‘experience age’ in an international research paper in 2017, VR and AR technology allows teachers to create virtual field trips into extreme environments, where the learning is immediately and inescapably memorable.

Having the technology to visit Mars or bump along the bottom of the ocean, to observe receding coral in the Great Barrier Reef or the melting polar ice caps, invites students to learn in a visceral environment – and through experience.

The paper cites Google Expeditions for its ability to “spark new interest in subject matter” and “improve overall engagement.” It won’t be too long before students will have forgotten they used to learn in less interactive ways.

In addition to being interactive, VR and AR technology allows students to experience problems on their own terms, constructing knowledge from their experiences, collaborating with others and exploring new solutions.

Increasing student engagement for greater mastery of subjects at school is not the only positive outcome of this new technology. It’s also creating more empathy in those who experience life or a location from a different perspective.

A Stanford University study showed that participants who experienced becoming homeless in virtual reality demonstrated more positive behaviour towards homeless people.

They were more likely to sign a petition demanding solutions to a housing crisis that those who engaged with the same materials on a desktop computer. This effect lingered long after the study ended.

If teachers are charged with creating the leaders of the future, just imagine the impact they can have when integrating VR and AR technology into classroom lessons on history, social justice, geography, health and the environment.

Google Expeditions makes it possible to take students on excursions beyond even this galaxy – let alone the town, city or country we each call home. When a class is then immersed in the new technology, the learning takes on another approach.

Students can then film their own footage, creating expeditions for their peers, sharing their experiences and collaborating in the creation of new content to broaden learning outcomes for everyone.

By Dr. Marissa Bond

23 Apr. 2020

Marissa develops exciting and innovative educational experiences for students and supports teachers in embracing cutting-edge technology in their classrooms. Marissa is an experienced STEM communicator and qualified teacher with a love of tech, tinkering and coding. In 2017 she completed her PhD which focused on developing and evaluating software using virtual people to help children with autism improve their social skills.

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