While we have already discussed the many ways in which VR technology can be applied to a variety of business models, as a research company we are also concerned with how any new and innovative techniques are improving education. Along with 3D printing, virtual reality is considered to be one of the main elements needed in the creation of any new makerspaces, and therefore, it’s implications for changing how we teach and how we learn, are important to consider.
Leading the field in VR education are global tech giants Google and Facebook and through their programs and funding opportunities, they aim to make VR integral to most classroom experiences. In recent years, Google has introduced two new VR platforms aimed to help educators enhance the learning experience. Their application Classroom joins applications developed by Microsoft and Facebook, and provides teachers with an online space to create, collect, and comment on student assignments.
But Google’s newest invention, a program they call Google Expeditions, is breaking the mold with VR classroom tech. A 2015 New York Times article claims this new model is indicative of shift in industry strategy. The article argues that this program demonstrates how some tech companies are now deciding “to focus on designing products specifically for classroom use, rather than simply modifying their existing consumer or enterprise products and then marketing them to schools.” Rather than simply providing technology that can be adapted to the classroom experience, Google works directly with teachers on the Expedition program to create a custom VR ‘field trip’ experience for that specific teacher or class.
Programs such as these can significantly influence how students learn – from elementary to higher education. We already know how Makerspaces are providing space and encouraging experimentation in universities around the country. But what kind of impact can VR have in K-12 education?
A contributor to the blog Teach Thought designed this graphic to highlight the 10 ways virtual reality can enhance the classroom experience for young students. Introducing students at a young age to the possibilities of experimentation and exploration will not only develop their tech skills and encourage their interest in a variety of industry applications, but it will also foster key skills in empathy, global awareness, communication, curiosity, and inquisitiveness. These skills will no doubt serve these students in any future career, whether it involves virtual reality or not. As these new technologies become cheaper and readily accessible, and tech companies start producing new products directly for classroom application, virtual reality in education will continue to remain a growth industry.