Unit 6: To Infinity and Beyond

In this weeks post, we were asked to share some ed-tech stories from around the world and how they are working. I have chosen to look at the ever-evolving virtual reality and augmented reality technologies and how they are working to enhance educational experiences for students and teachers.

Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are quickly becoming technological tools that are being implemented into classrooms across the world to help with student engagement and learning. With these tools, education is becoming more experiential for all students. Textbook learning has become or always was, stagnant and boring for most students. With the implementation of some VR and AR programs education is beginning to evolve into a more engaging and hands-on tech-based learning experience for students who have the privilege to use these tools.

So, what is virtual reality and augmented reality?

“Virtual reality is an artificial environment that is created with software and presented to the user in such a way that the user suspends belief and accepts it as a real environment”

Augmented reality is when we look through a lens, for instance, our phone screens, there is an element that is being added to the reality we know. It is altering or enhancing what is available to us in terms of educational experiences, entertainment, productivity, etc.    

With these new technologies at teachers disposal, they are able to enhance their curriculum with students being able to experience historical landmarks, going into space or share experiences of residential schools. In Manitoba, there has been a program created to take users on a journey through the experiences of residential schools. They visit rooms in virtual buildings and are told about survivors experiences. This has major pedagogical value within our education system and would also enhance engagement from students that are participating. We hear the stories sometimes and do our best to pass on this knowledge, but with a tool that can assist in the education of horrible events that have happened within our country with survivors stories, it would be invaluable

In Nova Scotia classrooms are utilizing VR for science curriculum looking at the human bodies. The tools that they are using to make this possible are their iPhones and a cardboard VR headset. These headsets can be quite cheap, around $10-$20 per set. Funding can be an issue, but it is in most aspects of education so this might be a cheap way to get around having to buy top of the line materials to supplement learning with. There is also the issue of devices to run the applications from, not every student has one, but every class I have taught there have been approximately 50% of the student population that have had them. Sharing is caring when partnered up and that is the way I could see VR working within our school systems. It is not perfect, but I liken it to computers per student ratios at times within schools, sometimes there are not enough and that’s when small group work starts to flourish.

AR is much the same when it comes to tools but is quite a bit different than VR. Programs that alter reality behind screens and enables users to experience their work coming to life, such as an art project, It can give life to something that students might find rather boring. The following video is a good example of what AR technology is capable of.

As technology becomes more prominent within our daily lives and societies it is important that education is paving the way for success within these realms. Not only will there be a greater student engagement level but student achievement would climb as well. Utilizing new tools is incredibly important in education and when utilizing AR and VR we can enhance experiential learning to new heights and students would appreciate that. The biggest thing educators have to remember when implementing these new programs and technologies it the fact that their needs to be a reason/context to the exploration and utilization of these tools. If that is not the case any tech advancement, when used improperly, is bound to fail. Using AR and VR properly with guidance and outcomes will enhance the education and engagement of many students.

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5 Responses to Unit 6: To Infinity and Beyond

  1. Krista Gates says:

    Hey Adam!
    Great post!
    I am just starting to learn about AR and VR as my sister is working with these products with her work in Calgary to support teachers and learners in schools in the province of Alberta. I agree with you completely how these products will be great for student engagement if they are utilized properly. It would enhance our education system greatly. I just hope down the road soon, teachers can receive the training on how to use them and integrate them meaningfully in the classroom. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    Liked by 1 person

    • scottgardiner12 says:

      I’m going to piggyback off of Krista’s comment here because it’s quite important for two reasons.

      1) As was mentioned by both of you – these programs need to be used properly if we’re going to have success. It goes back to one of the fundamental points in every ed-tech discussion – we can’t be using tech simply for the reason of using tech. Looking at the SAMR model, if everything we’re doing is merely a “substitutive activity” then really what’s the point?

      2) Training! Not going to lie. I’m quite stoked every time I see a post that mentions training in ed tech because that’s the basis of our major project. Again, here we have a potentially invaluable piece of technology that the tech-savvy teachers will grasp quite quickly while leaving the non-tech savvy teachers in the dust. Not a good situation. Not an equitable situation.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post Adam. I especially enjoyed the idea about how VR can be used in the classroom. Too often, VR is thought of as being price prohibitive, but as you mentioned, the students can use their own phones to make this happen. Thanks for Sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Troy says:

    Hey Adam. I agree that VR can be another inexpensive EDtech tool teachers can use in our classroom to engage our students. From the sounds of it VR is a lot more affordable than a class set of Chromebooks or iPad’s and it engages students in a different way… double win! As Scott mentioned I strongly agree,that PD training is crucial to effectively implementing any new technology into the classroom. To often we rush into implementing technology without being experts on the technology ourselves and it can quickly turn and backfire on us.

    Anyway, I have a 2 part question just hoping to pick your brain on VR. The first question comes from someone with little VR knowledge, but could you see this technology replacing field trips? Say your class wants to visit the Science center or the Legislative Building, could you see VR create a model of the science center or Legislative building? Remove all the red tape and legalities could you see that happening in the future? The second part of the question is, If VR can replace field trips, do you think students are missing out on real life experiences by not physically being at the building? I guess what I’m trying to get at is there any flaws to VR? Just asking from a curious person with little VR knowledge. Cheers!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the reply Troy! I do see VR as bringing field trips that are unattainable to students and schools, and I think those experiences, for the students, are important as many of them may never get to see some of the places VR is capable of taking them.
      In response to VR replacing trips to the Science Center, for example, I think this would be a detriment to schools and businesses that rely on some form of traffic from programs created for physical field trips. I also think that it is important for students to be able to experience museums and gallery’s in person. so I think that there is a delicate balance that doesn’t hinge on laziness on the teachers part, when using these technologies. It’s nice to take kids out of school for experiences, after all community is a big part of the curriculum.


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