Does VR Have a Place in Today’s Classrooms?
Mon 23 July, 2018
It’s easy to dismiss Virtual Reality as a gimmick, but with many established companies like PlayStation and Google beginning to move into the technology, it seems to be here to stay. Rudimentary versions of headsets are now cheap, freely available, and are designed for the phone in your pocket. As students become more and more aware of this technology, it is worth examining the role of virtual reality in schools.
ClassVR has already started trying to capitalise on this idea, claiming to introduce ‘the first virtual reality system designed for the classroom’. which claims that people remember 90% of the things they have done in real life. This is in comparison to only remembering 10% of what we read.
In fact, VR can provide engagement for students far beyond the traditional methods. It is much easier to pay attention to something that you literally have a presence in. The VR world places the student, and their actions, front and centre. While students can tune out as a teacher takes a lesson, VR can give them a sense of independence and allow them to feel in control of their own learning.
Rather than abstract concepts, virtual reality in schools can help students feel practical results in their learning. Learning becomes almost tangible and VR can help students who struggle with the traditional methods of reading and listening.
CNN even points to VR being used for students to explore space, or to swim with sharks. The article reports that ‘a higher number of more complex and analytical questions were being asked by students’ after use of the VR headset. The VR technology can help make extreme field trips – that would have been impossible – easy. Situations that previously could never have happened can be introduced and explored in a risk-free and teacher-controlled environment.
As of right now, there are still downsides to the virtual reality experience. ClassVR’s headsets are fairly expensive, costing almost £2000 for a ‘Classroom Set’ of 8. The actual software, meanwhile, is another £249 for primary schools and £499 for secondary schools.
Chances are that this is out of the price range for many looking to embrace virtual reality in schools. One way to reduce this cost could be by allowing students to use their smartphones with the cheaper cardboard headsets. There are many apps for this exact purpose.
While there are many benefits to virtual reality in schools, it might still be worth waiting for more affordable technology before investing. Creative use of simple cardboard headsets can enrich lessons, but it may be difficult to monitor. Overall, it is still worth teachers experimenting with this new technology in order to try and find a balance that can keep students engaged.