Looking Ahead: Virtual Reality Headsets and Immersive Education


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I have been interested in “Google Cardboard,” the cheap alternative to emerging and expensive virtual reality headsets, since first using Cardboard at NCCE’s Google Summit in Seattle in February, and then getting my own pair at a recent GoogleFest.  On a related note, here is proof that EVERYTHING looks great on me:

Google Cardboard… Looks totally normal.

A photo posted by Jason Neiffer (@neiffer) on

I have been so impressed with the simple elegance of this platform that I have graduated to a plastic model, also just $22!

It isn’t hard to dream about how this might empower our students (and not to mention ourselves!) to explore worlds, real and imagined, to experience the immersive environment that we all hope technology will fuel in the classrooms of the future.

Of course, like every other technology, there is often a gap between the impressive demonstration and the realities of the classroom.  Is VR enhancing the learning experience… or just distracting?  Once the novelty wears off (and it will!), what’s next?

You may remember Second Life, the online virtual world released in 2003.  It, too, was touted as a revolutionary tool for transporting people to places real and imagined.  I attended a few virtual training and workshops on that platform years ago, and agreed with the hindsight assessments that those platforms “overpromised and underdelivered.”

To give you a sense on why the virtual reality headsets and hardware today are likely different, let me share a recent TED Talk by Michael Bodekaer, an entrepreneur that is working in this space to help envision how these tools could create high-end virtual environments that are truly engaging and immersive, like high end science labs.

We are obviously at the very beginning of this new generation of virtual reality gear… but, it is likely coming to a classroom near you!  How might you use this to engage, delight and inform?

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