Virtual Reality in the classroom?

Virtual Reality might be the upcoming tool to use in the classroom. Are we ready to use it?

In Primary School, 6th graders had the opportunity to use some handmade wooden glasses to feel the 3D experience discovering some new content related to our topic: Ancient Egypt. (You can see some pictures we took during that lesson following this link). After enjoying some experiences in the classroom we decided to set up a mini-project about Virtual Reality.

Some students were so engaged with this technology that we asked them to explain in their own words how the 3D phenomenon was possible. Of course, they didn’t know how to express these complex ideas. The problem was simply the absence of an understanding of the topic at a deeper level, which is difficult for the students to express.

This difficulty in expressing themselves using the English language regarding feelings to express their ideas about the phenomenon demonstrated their ignorance about the topic.

But, I believe, it is not the ignorance that refutes the knowledge and expertise. It is simply the absence of knowing that invites and anticipates the knowledge that is to come. (In our lessons we sometimes teach having our moments of ignorance, too). And this is why teaching is so important.

Maybe teaching is not about the delivery of knowledge, information, or facts; nor is it about instant access to online information. Maybe education could be about the joy of not knowing, and discovering together the wonder of learning and/by inquiring.

Virtual Reality, the 3D phenomenon, etc. are as new as difficult topics for our students, so you might find some students struggling in front of the camera. However, they wanted to speak about it anyway and they did the best that they could with the language range that they have. So let’s stop killing the love of speaking and let’s enjoy the video:

The informal teaching approach.

The traditional approach of delivery-focused scheduled facts or events has taken a back seat to a more learner-centred framework avoiding the learning solutions that focus on results.

Our students decided to look for some information about the insides and relationships between our vision skill and the basis of our 3D perception using the google cardboard glasses as well as the 3D handmade glasses. As teachers, we let them had the freedom to explore whatever resources they had chosen. They assumed the responsibility of searching, filtering, and contextualizing the learning assets in order to meet and defined a theme together.

This process requires our students to think about their needs, interests and goals in order to set up parameters that will bring to their audience the most relevant results in their opinion. And by using this process we have the opportunity to show our students that we want their passions to grow beyond our physical classrooms.

VR and other future technologies of learning. Are teachers ready?

Revealing to our students our own ignorance about the completely new technological topic/tool, e.g. Virtual Reality,  alongside their lack of knowledge of that topic/tool, is a way of communicating much more as a teacher so that we are ready to support their new learning together, at the same time. With this approach, as a result, we show them that we are learning alongside them too. This is a great moment when teachers become students again. Then, and only then, can we start to understand their needs in terms of content, grammar, communicating skills, etc.

What seems to be happening is that the students use the new technologies outside of the school and as a result, it seems to become the death of teaching within the classroom. So what can we do about that? Maybe we can look at emerging trends and Technology as tools. Maybe from that point of view, we will be able to consider new trends as something that we can use, analyze and decide whether they are suitable or not for our needs.

Understanding the new technology to prepare our students to be better consumers.

As consumers, students live in a world of fast food, instant information, which is cheap content and cheap to share, new technology, which is cheap to use and make things with and cheap to consume. «User-friendly» makes technology easier to use. Better users will become better makers. Better makers will make life easier. However, better makers don’t necessarily mean better knowledge of the tool they use itself. Knowledge, in this framework, becomes cheap as well. This framework may make life easier. However, I believe that is fundamental for the students to understand when, why and how to use this technology and question why they are using it in the first place. 

Students could search for content regarding devices within their environment and analyse their basic use and their basic value as a tool. Actually, some students get very excited about these ideas and topics which seemed to be very difficult for the rest of their classmates. In other words, all the classroom students were very surprised by how engaged a few students felt about the topic they decided to look at, which I can even say it seemed for them to be like an adventure.

Once they choose the topic, for example, the 3D phenomenon, the questions and the sources they found interesting regarding this topic (which is related to silent reading, blended learning,…) they feel empowered to speak about the topic as if they were “THE” teacher. This is the best way we have found in order to create critical thinking in the classroom and to encourage our students not only to be familiar with new devices but also better consumers.

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