Pros and cons of
Unlocking new possibilities
AR and VR deliver new experiences to students they simply could not traditionally have enjoyed within the limitations of the classroom.
Today, VR provides a range of immersive and engaging experiences to all young people.
They are visiting places not practical, or even possible in real life, from the safety of the classroom.
They are exploring the inside of a blood vessel, the structure of an atom, the depths of the ocean, or the surface of the moon.
They are experiencing and interacting with creatures they will likely never see in their lifetimes; and are put safely into simulated dangerous and compromising situations such as standing in the trenches during World War One.
From this they can develop empathy, and gain an understanding that is simply unobtainable from traditional media and teaching methods.
AR allows students to present projects, diagrams and designs on a real life 3D manner, captivating their audience, increasing their interest and enjoyment in learning as well as developing skills for in the future workplace, whether this be in engineering, business or design roles.
"They are exploring the inside of a blood vessel, the structure of an atom, the depths of the ocean, or the surface of the moon."
For teaching staff, AR technology captures and maintains their students attention, bringing difficult concepts to reality and empowering them with the latest digital content.
Both technologies provide unparalleled ways to engage students of all ages.
One of the biggest issues teachers face is stimulating learners’ imagination and thoughts in ways not always possible with traditional teaching methods such as books, pictures or videos.
This drives a higher level of knowledge retention - as attested to by Edgar Dale in his ‘Cone of Experience’, which postulates that we retain around 10% of what we read, yet 90% of what we experience ourselves.
It also meets a fundamental condition - that technology should not lead learning and be used for its own sake, but should facilitate and support it.
Whilst it is too soon to have accumulated definitive research detailing the attainment benefits of long term use of AR and VR in education, anyone who has seen a child put on a VR headset and watched their reaction will attest to the engagement benefits.
But teachers who are using the technology talk of more than better engagement, they describe benefits in creative writing through increased stimulation, reductions in ‘time to learn’ and enhanced knowledge retention.
VR is also different to ‘traditional’ ICT, creating additional usage scenarios and inclusion in learning activities perhaps not previously associated with technological approaches.
The pros and cons...
AR and VR can present some challenges within the classroom, but they also bring many advantages. Balancing these pros and cons and fitting them to your classroom needs are key to their success.
- The high quality visuals AR and VR provide are not possible in the traditional classroom. This generates greater interest, enjoyment and engagement in lessons, and it brings the WOW! factor to the classroom.
- Bringing learning to life means the quality of education improves, by visualising situations not possible in a text book and feeling like they are part of an experience.
- The language barrier is eliminated, enabling inclusion from all cultures and traditions who may struggle adapting to a new language and environment.
- The total immersion a VR device provides limits teachers’ ability to interact with students - posing questions about how teachers communicate and control the class, and capture each individual student’s attention.
- Shared resource usage raises health and safety questions from the transfer and spread of diseases from sharing headsets.
- Concerns have been raised about children’s emotional well-being from the use of powerful immersive experiences and sensory ‘manipulation’.
- New users will spin around or stride forward to gain a better experience, - so teachers need to prepare for such eventualities in crowded classrooms.
The underlying requirements
AR and VR are relatively new technologies and the extent to which they are embedded into a school depends on the educational purpose and it’s underlying network capability.
With widely available applications and numerous devices providing many ways to deliver content, the first consideration is the connections – the core of making any technology work. If they cannot connect to existing networks, then there is no point.
At a time when the education sector is facing budgetary constraints, investing in new devices is not a top priority, therefore the question must be addressed on whether VR headsets and AR technology will work with existing classroom devices.
What is most important, is that the technology investment meets an educational goal, and the purpose of using them in the classroom should dictate if the AR or VR is the right choice.