Digital technology has long held the promise to “revolutionize” education. A quick search in Google Scholar shows articles going as far back as the 1960s. However, as much as the topic has been discussed, results have been spotty. The current pandemic has thrown both k-12 and higher education in a remote environment, trying to use digital technology to teach their students. Again, the results have been spotty. Students and faculty access to technology has been an impediment, as has knowledge of how to use digital technology to teach and learn.
So what can the future hold?
VR – virtual reality, AR – augmented reality, MR – mixed reality are terms that have been bandied about recently. While the many applications revolve around games, this virtual interaction with our reality can have powerful applications in education. Imagine that while sitting in your living room, you put on a pair of goggles and you’re instantly transported into your classroom. Every bone in your body is telling you that this is your classroom. You see your students, you see the desks, you can interact with materials on your desk, you pick up a piece of paper and you show it to the class. Teaching geography? Push a button and all of a sudden the entire class is transported to Antarctica. Teaching history? Push a button and your instantaneously transported in the middle of the battle of Waterloo, examining the unit placements of the British French and Prussian armies. Teaching biology? Be instantly transported through the human body.
With mobile technology available today, with the addition of Google Cardboard, most students can transform their smartphone into virtual or augmented reality viewers. For example, the Google Arts & Culture allows students to virtually tour museums across the world, Google Expeditions allows students to explore a wide variety of historic and geographic locations, and the New York Times VR can allow students to visit Mecca during the religious pilgrimage. How else could this technology enhance our classrooms? What potential might it have for our students’ future? What does that mean for learning and engagement?