Virtual Reality in the classroom

The use of virtual reality gives students the opportunity to step outside the classroom in ways they have never had the opportunity to in the past. Students can take virtual field trips, do virtual dissections, and “participate” in history like students have never had the opportunity for in the past. Students tend to be more engaged when they are excited by their learning, and virtual reality address different learning styles. This gives students that do not learn in traditional ways a chance of succeeding in ways they have not been able to in the past.

Virtual worlds do not offer more advantages over more traditional learning environments, but instead enhance what has been happening in classrooms. Traditional learning and virtual reality can work together to keep students engaged and move them forward into 21st Century learning. While traditional learning can stand alone, virtual reality is more of a venue to enhance traditional learning and should not be used as a stand-alone method of teaching.

Virtual worlds do not give students a better experience than real world experiences, only a different experience. Real world experiences are an important part of teaching/learning in my own classroom. In the expeditionary learning world, our students do quite a bit of our learning from experts in the field we are studying. That being the case, we go on quite a bit of “fieldwork” which is like a field trip, but involves students learning from, and then working with, the expert in the field. Virtual reality gives our students opportunity to do even more fieldwork, with experts that are not local. We have spent time with underwater archaeologists that have excavated sunken ships from the Age of Exploration, and with designers at GM when students were learning about engineering and the design process. Students would not have had the opportunity to do this fieldwork without technology and virtual reality.

To prevent students from looking at virtual worlds as just games, teachers must treat them as learning experiences. When a teacher sets up expectations and impresses upon students that the experience is fun, but also there are important lessons to be taken from the experience, students are likely to take it more seriously. When the virtual experience is obviously tied to current learning, students are more likely to understand the implications of the experience on their schoolwork.

Lisa Busch/Classroom 2.0

19. Feb. 2013