Why Use Virtual Reality in the Classroom?
The main reasons why more and more educators are integrating virtual reality into their classroom programs is to enhance student learning and engagement. VR is transforming the way educational content is delivered by immersing students in what they’re learning — real or imagined — and by allowing students to interact with it. Being immersed in what you’re learning not only motivates students, but it requires less cognitive load to process the information compared to rote learning.
There are a number of factors that position VR as a powerful engagement tool and learning environment for students. We’ve outlined a few below.
Add Context to Learning
When students immerse themselves in a VR environment, they are transported to a place which provides another layer of context to the learning experience. With VR, students are no longer limited to reading or watching a video about a topic. Instead, thanks to the feeling of presence that VR provides, students are now learning about topics by experiencing them. Even though VR experiences aren’t real, the mind believes it’s in a new place which engages the mind in ways can be very profound for learners.
Provoke and Sustain Inquiry
When students are transported to new learning environments to explore topics and content, what they see and experience inevitably lead to questions and potential inquiries. The quality and complexity of the VR experience may also create opportunities for students to sustain inquiry on their own.
Learn by Doing
VR by nature is interactive – engaging students as designers and leaders of their own learning. VR can provide a solid anchor for instruction and connect to a meaningful array of multimedia resources that students can engage with in their own way and at their pace.
Connect Emotionally to Learning
Emotional reactions to what we experience are fundamental to learning and forming memories. VR environments are designed to be visually engaging and stimulating which activates the brain. According to Martha Burns (2012) dopamine is released in the brain when we are rewarded. And learning about new things is often very rewarding. As dopamine levels increase in the brain those higher levels help that new information stick. According to Jensen (2013), norepinephrine affects many areas of the brain, such as the amygdala, which can influence where we direct attention. /…/ [The] one thing that can encourage its release is movement. When norepinephrine is released, less distraction and focus occur. So as students engage with the content in VR environments, they are stimulating their brains in ways that support retention of new information and experiences.
VR is a powerful personalization tool for learners. Not only are students able to choose the environments they wish to explore, but they have opportunities to self-direct the pace of learning and how they engage with the content. Teachers can further optimize the VR learning experience by selecting collections of tours that differentiate content in ways that align with their students strengths, needs, skills and interests.
According to the Social Science Research Network, 65 percent of us are visual learners.
VR helps all students visualize the content and concepts they are learning making it easier to comprehend. VR is especially helpful when you want students to visualize complex structures, systems or mechanisms (e.g. mechanical systems, body systems, optical systems, mass transit systems, Aboriginal clan systems, health care systems)
VR is useful not only for content consumption, but it’s also great for content creation. Tools such as the VR Tilt Brush can transport students to new levels of creativity like they’ve never experienced before.
Students who avoid taking risks often don’t feel safe or comfortable enough to do so. While there are many factors that often contribute to those feelings, VR can provide students with an immersive personalized learning environment where they can explore new content on their own. These kinds of individualized experiences can have significant therapeutic outcomes for students who experience anxiety in new learning situations.
Scale Learning Experiences
When it comes to scaling certain learning experiences for students sometimes barriers like cost and distance are prohibitive. VR gives educators the power to expose students to experiences they might not otherwise have in school – like trips to manufacturing plants, botanical gardens, and museums, or access to full technology labs where they can experiment and explore. VR makes scaling unique educational experiences possible.
Explore New Technology
The desire for VR to be designed for educational purposes outweighs gaming 63.9 percent vs. 61 percent. While VR has been historically dedicated to gaming, the market is shifting and more educational VR content is being made available. At Digital Human Library, we have curated the best on the web with over 1000 educational virtual tours in all curriculum subject areas for students in grades K-12.
Evaluate a Virtual Tour
After participating in a virtual tour, why not evaluate it? Working through the process of evaluating a tour helps you think about what’s important to you/ your students as users of that technology. Evaluating tours will also help prepare students with the perspective they need when they are ready to begin creating their own virtual tours.
Ready to try Virtual Tour Building with your class?
Street View / Ricoh Theta / Virtual Tour Creator Workshop created by Melissa Lavoie
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