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Virtual and Augmented Reality Enters the Classroom

  • January 18, 2016|
  • 4 years ago

by Sam Morris

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Global Education Solutions Architect

New technology often has a “cool factor” that creates interest and excitement. For a lot of industries, the technology that is currently generating buzz is virtual and augmented reality (VR and AR). VR and AR are already being utilized in a number of different settings, such as healthcare, sports, and retail – and for education, it seems like it’s only a matter of time.

So, what is the difference between virtual reality and augmented reality? Augmented reality allows users to still be aware of the “real world” while interacting with virtual elements. Virtual reality, on the other hand, immerses users in a virtual world that they can interact with, leaving the “real world” behind. Both technologies aim to make experiences more interesting and engaging through technology. Although both have plenty of potential use cases, an article for IT Business Edge suggests that one might eventually be more prominent than the other:

“Digi-Capital says that VR and AR will generate $150 billion in revenue by 2020. Manatt CEO Peter Csathy suggests that AR, in which the user has a view of the real world, will grab the lion’s share of revenue in the long term.”

Although the interest is there, adoption has yet to reach critical mass, which gives educators time to learn about the options, imagine applications, and even debate the value. While every teacher may not feel the same draw or find the same value in these up-and-coming technologies, it’s good to become familiar with the options. Some examples include:

Google Cardboard. Remember the old View-Masters? Google has taken the simple concept a step further with the introduction of Google Cardboard, which provides a VR experience at a very low cost of entry. Google is even thinking of education-specific uses and has created Google Expeditions, which makes use of Google Cardboard by leading children on virtual fieldtrips.

Microsoft HoloLens. Microsoft’s HoloLens is a “holographic computer” that will allow those wearing the HoloLens glasses to interact with holographic images in various settings, including Minecraft.

Minecraft. Minecraft is a game based on placing blocks to build various structures. It is interactive, complex, and versatile. The game can certainly be used for fun, such as re-creating and exploring imaginary places, like the Shire from The Lord of the Rings. However, it can also be used for more educationally sound purposes such as reconstructing a 1:1 scale replica of a real-life city.

Drones. VR and AR can be leveraged in combination with other emerging technologies, like drones. John Gaudiosi writes for Fortune, highlighting one of what Dave Hodgson, director of sales and distribution for Zeiss VR One in North America, calls “endless possibilities”:

“According to Hodgson, educators can allow students to hover over the Great Wall of China as if they’re in a floating bubble and look in any direction they want.”

The future of AR and VR as a whole – and relevant to education – is anybody’s guess. Simulators are the earliest form of AR and VR in education, and there is a strong possibility that this technology will continue to be applied to education initiatives in different ways. VR and AR make it possible to enhance experiences that would otherwise be static or hard to replicate. Through applications such as virtual field trips and simulations, they have the potential to make learning more authentic, but the question educators need to ask is: what else can they do? AR and VR can certainly enhance an experience, but whether they can go beyond that to offer more value remains to be seen. Yes, these technologies have the “cool factor,” but how can they be transformative?


What do you think is the most compelling use of VR and AR in education?

Reference Articles:

“Augmented Reality vs. Virtual Reality: What are the differences and similarities?” Tech Times. April 6 2015.
“Virtual or Augmented: The Future of Reality” IT Business Edge. November 4 2015.
“Virtual reality for QBs: Stanford football at the forefront” San Jose Mercury News. 2015.
“Virtual Reality Finally Gets Real” Forbes. November 3 2015.
“Virtual Reality in Healthcare: Where’s the Innovation?” Tech Crunch. September 16 2015.
“Google Cardboard exec says content will make (or break) VR” CIO. November 6 2015.
“Google Expeditions Takes Schoolchildren On a Virtual Reality Field Trip To The Great Wall Of China And More” Tech Times. September 30 2015.
“’Minecraft’ Users Are Making A 1:1 Scale Replica Of The City Of Vienna” Tech Times. November 5 2015.
“Now you can pilot a real-world drone from inside virtual reality” Fortune. October 21 2015.