Introduction to Virtual Reality

Teachers have made huge strides to improve educational practices and to personalize learning, recognizing the needs of diverse learners. Virtual reality (VR) is a new and effective way to diversify learning so that we are meeting the needs of all students of all learning abilities. George Coates defined virtual reality as ”electronic simulations of environments experienced via head mounted eye goggles and wired clothing enabling the end user to interact in realistic three dimensional situations” (Hussein, 2015). Virtual reality has transformed the world of education and has created opportunities to keep students engaged, as well as created such revolutionary educational opportunities that would otherwise be impossible to experience. There are many benefits of using VR in the classroom, including having more engaging content for students, providing experiences for students with disabilities that would have never been able to experience certain events without it, creating opportunities that support learning theories like Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences, recognizing that students are diverse and have different learning styles, as well as many more. Of course, with any emerging technology, there are concerns about the possible constraints involved. Many concerns have centered around affordability, but other constraints include the concern about the possible physical side effects and the lack of realism that cannot be transferred to real life. While these concerns are valid, ongoing research has discovered effective ways to minimize these constraints, making VR in the classroom a safe and engaging way to bring new life to the content. Virtual reality is a manageable, equitable, and effective tool to implement in the classroom to promote learning retention, keep students engaged, and introduce real-life experiences that would not be possible without it.

Most accessible form of VR: Smartphones and tablets have become so commonplace among students, that many students even have 1:1 devices in the classroom to use for daily learning. According to a recent study from Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden, “The introduction of Google Cardboard showed the public for the first time that any smartphone of this generation can be turned into a Virtual Reality machine with help of a head mount display (HMD) (Hussein, 2015). It contains two optical lenses for each eye that allows students with a smartphone to have a perception of depth and engage in immersive VR experiences. It provides a safe environment for students to practice their skills and share their ideas and creativity through this innovative medium.

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