The Codex

Envisioning VR in Education - A Thought Experiment


I want to put this out in the wild as a litmus test for interest. Dealing with education in todays world, one of the growing problematic issues facing teachers with their students today is retention. Kids and adults for that matter are bombarded with information and stimulus everyday and all day.


Whether is comes from a smartphone, TV, radio. peers, etc., is it any wonder that when it comes to retention or simple memorization, things can get "jumbled". From mom's busy day dealing with the kids, remembering schedules and activities or dad's work load at the office, factory, or the reversal of those roles, keeping track of it all has become overwhelming. So in the current world of our growing youth, they have that to look forward to on top of their schools workloads (whether public or home).



I present you an idea that could help with that scenario. We'll use the thought experiment of a typical kid in school. Lets say, "Jonny" is our student for today and he's in class learning the boring subject of history (to him at least). Now Jonny doesn't really like this class because of all the subject matter. We'll use the battle of Gettysburg as an example. The teacher is trying very hard to keep the kids engaged with all the details of that time period and our kid Jonny is just ho-humming through the class. By the end of it, the bell rings, Jonny grabs his books and rushes out to get to the next class already forgetting the information they just heard.


Now I would like for a minute to focus on that word "heard". In context, a class like that may have some diagrams or projector displaying images of the material. Most likely, the information came from a text book they read. For some, this is fine as they may like the material but for others like Jonny, it simply isn't engaging enough to be interested. OK, lets add some technology to this scenario and think about the outcome. Same situation with our student "Jonny" but this time the teacher rolls out some VR gear. Everyone in the class is instantly transported to the time period of study. The teacher can be seen by Jonny as an "Avatar" that looks like a captain in the Northern Army during the Civil War. The students, including Jonny, can see themselves as soldiers rushing through the woods on the way to attack. They can hear gunfire and the teacher talking about what's going to happen. They eventually ensue in a battle of trading gunfire. Smoke billowing around them as the teacher explains the significance of what is going on. The bell rings but Jonny and the rest of the class were so entranced by the battle, want to know more of what happened after. They are completely engaged. 


So, in this experiment, its relatively easy to point out the impact of experiencing a story verses lecturing it. Not to say that lectures aren't important because they very much are. It's a part of learning that everyone needs to know and experience. But this level of engagement makes the material so much more impactful that retention is almost automatic. The reason for this is as humans, we are visual beings. Yes, we have other important senses too but they augment what we see and what the brain translates into stored memories. Like a smell that triggers a visual or a sound that make you remember a situation you've experienced. It comes down to how the brain is processing information and VR allows a life-like experience even if the environment is simulated. The brain doesn't care about much of the difference. It does however process the experiences as any regular situation you have dealt with before. Using virtual reality technology can definitely be invaluable as a tool in more ways than just playing games. It allows us to experiences our history as a current reality. Talk about reliving the past. Literally!



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