The first few lyrics to Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody is all I can think of when I think about virtual reality (VR). If you aren’t already familiar with virtual reality, to put it simply it’s a type of technology that allows you to experience another environment through sight. This happens by using a headset that tracks your head and eye movements to change the image you are seeing within the headset changing the environment you are experience. Our brains are triggered through the image and movement to make the experience more lifelike. Why might someone use virtual reality? There are a variety of reasons for using VR that go beyond simply entertaining ourselves. There are 9 different industries that use VR for training, education or experiences. Sharon discusses some VR tools that Sask Polytechnic use here in Regina to train their nurses. VR is being used to help treat patients with dementia and for teaching someone how to walk again. For an overview of virtual reality and how it works check out this video.
Amy found a really great Ted Talk discussing how virtual reality should be used to develop empathy through experiencing the lives of others around the world. I cannot even fathom what it would be like to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes in a war torn country or a country where children must walk miles to get to school. Yes I have seen videos or documentaries, but those videos do not give me the same experience that VR could. I had never thought of using VR in this way before and I think that this would is an incredible way to use the technology.
Augmented Reality (AR) is another type of reality that can be experienced using technology. This is when we experience reality by combining the real world with overlaying information. Some forms of AR I am familiar with are found while watching TSN or other sports on TV. The first down line on an football field is an augmented reality, it can be argued that slow motion is a form of augmented reality as well because it helps us examine a clip more closely to see what happened. Charles Arthur provides a thorough description of AR by discussing the development, AR apps and the future of advertising using AR. Bill and Logan introduced us to Aurasma which is an AR app that has so many uses within the classroom. Rochelle described how she uses Aurasma at her school by having students create book reviews for the books in the library. A book review is just one example of the many ways AR can be used in education and within our classrooms.
Of course we can’t forget about the digital divide when we think about integrating these experiences in our classrooms. We must always remember that all students come from different socio-economic backgrounds and that the access to technology among them might vary. The cost to implement VR technology in our classes can also be very expensive (unless we use Google Cardboard which is reasonably priced).
I can definitely see myself using a word wall for my math courses and integrating some of the virtual experiences into my technology class. I am really interested in Google Expeditions and want to find a way to integrate that into my technology class. This might be something that I could collaborate with another teacher to make it a cross-curricular activity mixing technology with social or science class. I was happy to hear so many of you already have experience with these different realities and I love hearing how you integrate them into your classes. If there is anything you are doing that uses these technologies I’d love to hear in the comments below!