The pace technology has evolved at over the last few decades is baffling. In what seems like just a few years (in reality it’s been closer to 30 or so), we’ve gone from people getting their first cell phone to most now having multiple devices they use or carry with them daily.
TVs are smarter, our homes are connected to the internet, you can communicate with someone on the other side of the globe instantly, the list goes on and on.
This change is especially noticeable in schools. Take a second and go back to your elementary days. For anyone born before the mid 1990’s to early 2000’s, the most technology we saw in the classroom was a big projector on a cart and the occasional excitement of a TV being rolled in for a movie day.
It was a big deal when Smart Boards came into the picture, and now even that level of technology seems standard when you think of how savvy kids under 18 are with smart devices.
The use of technology in schools has become even more prevalent since the pandemic forced schools to shift to eLearning. Lessons and classwork had to be digital as well as immersive to keeps students’ attention. Now as everyone is back in person, there are conversations happening about how to make the classroom environment more engaging.
One answer? Virtual and augmented reality.
What Is Virtual and Augmented Reality?
Virtual reality is a fully-immersive digital environment – real or artificial – that people can access through different types of technology. A common example is people putting on goggles or a headset and being transformed to a different interactive setting.
Augmented reality is focused on real-world situations and settings. With AR, people use similar electronic devices, but instead of being transported into a simulation, their take on the world around them is enhanced. Think of a furniture store’s app that lets you take photos of your living room and see different couches in your own space.
While the two are different in the situations they immerse people in, they’re similar in the fact that both enhance or alter the appearance of people’s surroundings through technology.
Both are more accessible than they used to be thanks to people’s access and comfortability with technology. This is seen with the significant increase of active users of AR in the last five years. In 2019, there was an estimated 44 million active users of AR in the world, according to Statista. In 2022, that number is projected at just shy of 1.1 billion.
As those numbers continue to rise, bringing AR and VR into the classroom will provide benefits to students, teachers, and administrators that other forms of technology will not.
Pros of VR/AR in Education
Finding ways to keep students of all ages and grade levels engaged in what they’re learning throughout the day can be a struggle. Teachers must figure out what works for students individually while still catering to every other student in the room. And while AR/VR might not be the solution for every student or every school, the pros are worth considering.
Bringing Interactive & Immersive Education to All
One of the most notable benefits of using AR and VR in educational settings in the accessibility they provide. They are not new ideas, so there are some programs that already exist for these tools in the classroom. And because of the technology’s prevalence, the cost is not as outrageous as it once might have been. This means that schools with access to less funding and support for these tools could still potentially reap their benefits at a price point that is feasible for them.
The same goes for students in more rural and remote parts of the country. Most places have some way to connect to the Internet, and that’s the starting point for AR and VR. This means that schools and students everywhere could have access to more immersive learning experiences no matter their location.
AR and VR also can provide a more accessible way for students with special needs and learning disabilities to experience their coursework in a setting that is most beneficial to them without sacrificing that engagement level.
Cost Effective Learning Tool
It was mentioned earlier, but it’s important to note again. The cost of AR and VR – and the technology and devices they are experienced through – is less than it once was. Don’t get me wrong, they still cost money that schools have to find the funding for, but that price is going to something that can be used over and over again for years to come.
Paying for these could potentially take away other costs – both monetary and resource-wise – that schools currently face. For example, these different types of realities can replace the need for a physical field trip and instead allow students to see, hear, and experience things they would in a museum or other location – even one that’s in another state or country.
This is especially beneficial when you consider the fewer physical resources this requires – no leaving the school building, no need for chaperones, fits into the typical school day, etc. And when you think about the teacher shortage and financial struggle most schools are facing nowadays, this makes AR and VR a great option for the classroom.
New Way to Experience Learning
Typically, students are used to coming to school and spending their day learning through textbooks, worksheets, or whatever other method their teacher uses. And while this helps them understand the material, it doesn’t always keep their interest or keep their attention the full length of class. AR and VR gives them the chance to be involved in what their learning and see how things work rather than just reading about them.
Students also can get up close and personal with different subjects – historic sites around the world can be seen “in person,” art can be experienced within arm’s reach, science and weather events can happen around them in real time. Without using devices and technology associated with VR, these things wouldn’t be possible without high costs to both the school and students.
Meeting Students Where They Are
Let’s be honest, technology is more engaging than a typical day of schoolwork for most students. They’d likely rather scroll on their phone, watch videos, or talk with their friends than sit through a math lesson.
As for their familiarity with the technology, most students from 12th grade down to 2nd (if not younger) know how to operate a digital device of some sort, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic in the spring of 2020, which forced students of all ages into some capacity of eLearning. Because of that, using a new technology for school isn’t as daunting as it might have previously been.
So, if students already know how to use most technology given to them, and it’s more likely to engage them in their work, why not bring AR and VR into the mix? It provides them with an immersive and enhanced learning experience that will likely stick with them past that unit and even that school year.
Why It All Matters
Ultimately, bringing AR and VR into classrooms for any grade level can change how we educate and interact with our children. Enhancing the way they see the world right in front of them through AR or transporting them to a whole new world through VR is likely to increase their desire to be involved with their schoolwork. This can easily lead to better grades, a better attitude and mindset, and more happiness for everyone overall.
The other biggest reason of why AR and VR should be in our students’ classrooms is the equality factor. They provide access to more immersive educational opportunities for students across the board, regardless of their circumstances – or those of their school.
Technology is only going to continue to grow, and our students are only going to feel more comfortable with it, so why not use it to everyone’s advantage and provide them with a better educational experience?