Teachers come in all shapes, sizes, and ages, fortified by a varying number of years of experience. Let’s take two teachers at each end of the spectrum, knowing that the rest fall somewhere in-between. There is Mrs. Applebaum, 62 years old, and has about 37 years of teaching under her belt. Then there is Josh, 29 years old and has been teaching for about 5 years. Josh is in a minority group in that he is young, and male. Josh is also a digital native, having been brought up in technology and the internet age, his entire life. Mrs. Applebaum has not. Though she is not afraid of new methods and tools, she sees no reason why classes need to be complicated by technology, when they don’t need to be. She’s a teacher… not a technician.
USA, 2017-18, for illustrative purposes
But what Mrs. Applebaum and Josh have in common is that they have both read the literature about immersive learning and understand its efficacy, and promise. How to bring that into the school, and more specifically the classroom, is still unknown, to both. However, Josh is comfortable with technology and thinks he knows what to do. Let’s take a look at his thought process.
Josh has read a lot about VR in education, and has a Meta Quest at home. He has experienced firsthand what it feels like to be transported into another world, and envisions ways that this can be brought into the classroom. He has brought this up with his principal, and they both agree that this could be a valuable tool. So, Josh dutifully reads more about virtual reality and sees that the Quest is, a) a wonderful device with a great rating, and b) is sold at a price which he can sell his school on. In Josh’s mind, this is a no-brainer.
However, what has slipped by Josh are a couple of quite major issues. At the heart of things should be content, and a paucity of manageable, educational content on the Quest is a very big concern. The Quest was made for individual users, for gaming and entertainment. Differentiated learning with actionable results for a full range of students? Forget about it (use your best New Jersey accent!).
It’s a 6 dof device (Watch this video https://youtu.be/lOZcPNskZFk) requiring a defined area, and student movement, whereas 3 dof devices ideally fit as a practical solution into classrooms. Two controllers are more difficult for special needs students. And a social media company which mandates an account with personal information simply to use the device is not a suitable solution for education. The fact that they have changed that stance from a Facebook account, to a Meta account (tied to a Facebook account), is moot.
Mrs. Applebaum is less concerned about the device, and more critical about the educational value. She wants to know that this offers a different way of explaining key concepts to her students, is easy to fit into her syllabus, aligns with her goals and her curriculum, and won’t be disruptive to her class. She is looking for better learning outcomes and any help in identifying gaps in learning. When a Mrs. Applebaum happens upon the Veative website, she is invariably comforted to learn that we are as into the key learning elements of virtual reality as she is, and never shy away from a discussion about learning objectives, formative assessment inside the environment, and all other aspects of the learning process. We put our learning content on full display to allow everyone to see and judge what we have created.
Josh and Mrs. Applebaum exist in almost every school around the world. Neither is wrong in what they are looking to do, yet likely come at this with very different eyes. A lot of experience with new and better technology (iPad, smart boards, 3D printers, and so on) informs Mrs. Applebaum that no matter what it is, there better be great content behind it, and a simple way of using it. She doesn’t want to set up a router, ensure that all headsets are connected to the internet, move content, deal with dropped controller signals and the like. “Why would an essentially individual experience be delivered as a full group exercise?” is a common question we entertain. This is absolutely right, as a full group event is prone to more and more logistical challenges, which of course fall upon both Josh and Mrs. Applebaum.
So, if you identify as a Mrs. Applebaum, the message is simple… Welcome – you should feel at home here. Check out the rest of the site as we aim to educate you on all things VR in education, whether or not you choose to study/teach with Veative. And if you are more of a Josh, forget about the device for a little bit and dig into the learning and what kinds of things can be achieved. If you are not convinced, that’s fine. At least you have gained a bit more knowledge about things, we hope. We are teachers ourselves and welcome any and all questions. If you are not sure, don’t hesitate to ask.