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VR/AR : The Golden Age of Education

by Phillip Scanlon

Aug 17, 2017

The year is 2035.  You are a 1st grade student.  Your day consists of augmented reality lectures.  Your teacher asks you and your classmates to put on your virtual reality (VR) goggles.  You virtually explore the Ancient Pyramids of Egypt and then attend art class at the Louvre.  You remove your VR goggles and go to lunch.  After lunch, you put back on your VR goggles and travel to the Galapagos Islands to study animal and plant life, concluding your day with reading comprehension inside a virtual Dr. Seuss environment.  Cumulative grades do not exist and your projects are self-paced.  The VR project will be multi-disciplinary and will adjust to your level of comprehension.  When you get home from school, you are excited to hear that an astronaut on Mars has made a very important discovery.  You and your parents will virtually travel to Mars to experience what the astronaut is experiencing through a shared virtual reality environment.

Sounds amazing, right?

Clearly there are pros and cons to this type of societal environment.  For example, VR/AR will provide opportunities to students that were not previously available because of family income or location.  A low-income student living in the inner city may discover that he or she has a passion for marine biology.  VR/AR will not only allow the student to interact with the history of ocean exploration, but will allow the student to operate vessels, learn diving techniques, and observe systems and sensors.  The student will be able to utilize these learned techniques to virtually explore the Great Barrier Reef in Australia or go Great White Shark diving near the Guadalupe Islands.   

Will these students be able to disconnect from virtual reality and live happily in reality, a challenge already plaguing students of today?

The optimistic side of me believes our future grandchildren will deeply explore topics that are of interest to them, while becoming more culturally diverse, “traveled”, and more empathetic towards others.  They will embrace reality because they spend most of their day in a virtual environment. 

The realist side of me, however, foresees virtual environments that will have a negative effect on society. VR gaming and 1st person shooter games will most likely provide adequate training to mentally unstable individuals to carry out horrific acts of violence. VR/AR may replace drugs as an escape from reality, but students may become addicted to virtual reality and choose not to interact with reality.  The result, childhood obesity will be prevalent, parental involvement will be low, and soft skills will slowly cease to exist.

It’s no use fighting the reality that is virtual reality. As with any innovation, there will be challenges and negative side effects, but if we enter the future eyes wide open, we can prepare for these pitfalls and embrace technology with limited recoil.

A recent study in the academic journal Social Forces claims that only six percent of adults are in the career they pursued as a kid. 

Why?

Could it be that many children are not provided with a clear educational path to achieve their “dream” career?  Even parents and teachers who are heavily involved, may lack the knowledge to properly direct the student.  If a student is unable to visualize how to achieve their goal, they will most likely be unsuccessful in the pursuit of that goal.  

In my previous marine biology example, the student may continue to pursue a career in marine biology because he or she has “real-world” instruction, knowledge, and resources in a virtual environment. These are not opportunities available to present-day students, but with the use of VR/AR can change that in the future.

Seeing is believing

Brain imagery research shows that visualization works because neurons or cells that transmit information, view imagery as real-life scenarios. The act of visualization creates communication between the brain and our neurons to generate the desired movement. Learned behaviors are created and the human body performs the act based on the imagery or visualization. 

If philosophy is more your thing, Aristotle said, “First, have a definite, clear, practical ideal; a goal, an objective. Second, have the necessary means to achieve your ends: wisdom, money, materials, and methods. Third, adjust all your means to that end.”

If brain imagery and Aristotle are correct, VR/AR will drastically improve student outcomes and “dream job” achievement. 

Visualizations and experiences through VR/AR will deeply engage students, promote team work and “real-world” multi-disciplinary application; resulting in desired student outcomes and success.

“If you can imagine it, you can achieve it.  If you can dream VR/AR it, you can become it.”