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Virtual Reality In Teaching Must Be About More Than Riding Rollercoasters #WomenEd Tech

Virtual Reality In Teaching Must Be About More Than Riding Rollercoasters #WomenEdTech

By Kate Sida-Nicholls @SidaNicholls

The use of technology in teaching and learning has developed exponentially since COVID. 

Three years ago, colleagues from the #EdTech world were confused and disheartened about how teachers could not appear to accept the opportunities that the use of technology could have on supporting their teaching and workload. Due to COVID, the education world has embraced and connected to technology in the classroom. 

A clear indication of the assimilation of technology in the classroom is that the language of teaching has changed. The terms 'online classroom', 'hybrid learning' and 'learning platform' have very quickly become incorporated into the lexicon of teaching and this would not have seemed possible three years ago. Before COVID, the most frequently #EdTech term in teaching was probably 'whiteboard', with many teachers overlooking the significance of the adjective 'interactive' and using their whiteboard as a display screen for Powerpoints.

Now, we face the next #EdTech opportunity, which is virtual reality. 

Virtual reality plays a big part in the current world of our students and will play an even larger role in their future world of employment and leisure. The opportunities for learning that virtual reality can provide are endless and our students are familiar with the opportunities of the virtual environment due to the online world they engage in. At Eastern Colleges Group, which is a group of three post-16 sixth form colleges, in Suffolk, we are in the enviable position of having an XR-Lab. We have a lab with floor to ceiling screens back and front, VR headsets and a 'green' room to use for creating immersive experiences using haptic gloves.

The opportunities that this innovative resource provides is amazing and very exciting. However, we need to remember that learning is a constructivist experience and classrooms of the future should not be a room of thirty students all with VR headsets on in their own virtual reality world for seventy-five-minute lessons. 

Virtual reality must enhance or develop the existing learning of our students and provide them with collaborative learning experiences which supports them with their social and emotional behaviours and knowledge retention. 

Virtual reality in teaching must be about more than riding rollercoasters. 

Organisations and companies are developing content, but it is a slow and costly process. The tech companies are realising that in order to ensure that virtual reality becomes an integral part of the future of teaching and learning in the classroom, it needs to do more than creating a wow factor of the immersive experience of being able to sit in the middle of a rainforest.

I hope that as educators over the next ten years, we can embrace the learning opportunities that virtual reality can provide for our students. Hopefully we can create our own lexicon linking teaching and learning with virtual reality to demonstrate our confidence in merging the two approaches so we know that as teachers we have provided our students with all the knowledge and skills that they will need to thrive in a future world full of immersive technology.

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Thursday, 08 June 2023

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