Wednesday, December 30, 2015

It is time for the VR Classroom

In January 2016, Oculus will be releasing the Oculus Rift, a virtual reality device that is as impressive as the name indicates.  Recently they also released the Oculus VR by Samsung.  A $99 device that transforms your cell phone into an amazing VR headset.  There are also many other virtual reality devices heading our way.  Google has done an inexpensive Google Cardboard implementation that brings 360┬║ views to everybody for pennies.  Soon the market will be flooded with headsets, glasses and other virtual viewing devices that will shape our entertainment.

Remember however that this technology is still in its infancy.  Like the dot matrix printers of yesterday, they will soon be replaced with high definition versions with views so real you will be immersed in virtual worlds.

Now imagine this.  30 students in a classroom getting instruction about the human cell from an excellent teacher.  The teacher is explaining the cell and mentioning what activities they will be doing together in groups and as individuals.

A switch is flipped.

None of these students were in the same classroom in real life.  These 30 students are from around the world.  The teacher is one of the finest subject matter experts, and her lesson plan is flawless.  And while the teaching is happening, and the switch is flipped, something very unexpected takes place.  All of the students are suddenly immersed inside a virtual human cell.

They are in a classroom without walls and boundaries.   As the cell starts up the process of protein synthesis the teacher pauses for a moment to point out the chemicals that are about to come into contact with one another.  Suddenly all of the students get it.  They lived it.  They watched it happen in a world so engaging they can't escape its glory.

This is what I think Virtual Reality can do for education.  History class is now an everyday virtual field trip to the places and times where events happened.  The understanding of these events comes from learners of all types experiencing the content in several different ways.  Combine the virtual reality with other forms of technology and you have yourself a spicy learning sandwich.  And at a price we won't be able to refuse.

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