Virtual reality refers to environments that are computer-generated which simulate the physical and realistic sensory experiences associated with those environments. The most basic forms of virtual reality present the user with a 3D environment and allow the user to interact and manipulate the virtual environment as if they were actually there. The most common format of virtual reality that is currently being used in education comes through headsets and visual goggles which produce lifelike sounds and images (NMC/CoSN Horizon Report: 2017 K–12 Edition).
Virtual reality has a new place in the world of education. Recent uses of virtual reality in the classroom include virtual field trips, content creation, special education, medical uses, and more (Walsh, 2017). Through virtual reality technologies, students are able to experiences simulations of people, animals, or places they could never otherwise experience. Several articles, studies, and educators have attested to the potential of the great successes of 3D immersion and virtual reality technologies in hundreds of classrooms in educationally progressive schools and learning labs in the U.S. and Europe. Virtual reality technologies have the potential to specifically enhance learning in biology, anatomy, geology and astronomy. The curricular focuses and learning opportunities are “notably enriched through interaction with dimensional objects, animals and environments” (Reede & Bailiff, 2016).
Furthermore, educators hope to use virtual reality in the future to bridge cultures and to teach in depth lessons on empathy. In a school near Chicago, a teacher has been allowing her students to share one virtual reality headset to implement lessons on empathy. The headset and goggles allow the students to feel as if they are actually experiencing whatever is being displayed around them. In an interview regarding her experience using virtual reality in the classroom, Vos said:
“They (students) may not remember a lesson dating back to October, but they remember virtual reality,” she said. “It taps into your real feelings in a way that you can’t replicate really well in another form.” (Leavitt, 2017)
Educators hope to use virtual reality technologies more in the classroom as they become more affordable and accessible.
Leavitt, I. (2017, March 14). Students try out virtual reality program, with empathy in mind. Retrieved October 18, 2017, from http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/northbrook/news/ct-nbs-northbrook-virtual-teaching-tl-0316-20170314-story.html
Reede, E., & Bailiff, L. (2016, January 23). When Virtual Reality Meets Education. Retrieved October 18, 2017, from https://techcrunch.com/2016/01/23/when-virtual-reality-meets-education/
Walsh, K. (2017, June 14). Kelly Walsh. Retrieved October 18, 2017, from http://www.emergingedtech.com/2017/06/real-uses-of-virtual-reality-in-education-how-schools-are-using-vr/