I’m on a panel at NAACE on 23 March, and we’ll explore the potential use of VR in education. I have argued that the potential is great for many reasons. But here is my top three:
1. World is 3D, not 2D
This brilliant cartoon from the New Yorker says it all. So much learning is 1D – one dimensional written text. I don’t mind this for subjects that are solely concerned with texts, but when text is used to deliver teaching and learning that falls short by that method, things start to fall apart, or get very, very long-winded.
Sure, we’ve gone up a gear with a richer mix of media. We have paper, radio, film, TV, the web - all 2D. We ‘ve had books, blackboards, whiteboards, computer screens, tablets and mobiles. – all are 2D. But VR is a new medium that allows you see the world in 3D. All of what we do in life is in 3D. We live, enjoy and work in 3D environments, doing 3D things with 3D people. That’s why 3D learning matters.
2. VR is a medium not a gadget
As Chris Milk said, "In all other media, your mind interprets that medium. In VR your consciousness is the medium." It's that profound a shift. This is the first major new medium to emerge since the web and it may be the last, the final medium, as can be anything and everything. It is not a toy or gadget but a way of re-presenting the world of learning that is fundamentally different from paper, audio or screens. It represents ANY world for learning in full 3D, worlds you can look and move around in. More than this, you will believe you are there. Your mind will scream “I’m here’ – and you will have no choice. Any world can be presented in 3D but think on this – your imagination is the only limit. I can take you into space to learn Newton’s three laws (I have), under the ocean to teach biology (I have), to the molecular level in chemistry, to any habitat for biology, to any scale or lab for physics, to any place for geography, back in time for history, immersion for languages. We can also let you hone your sports skills and all practical, vocational subjects, training of soft skills, design skills, engineering skills and other real world behaviours. I can even take you to impossible worlds and you can do impossible things.
3. Learning theory
The big basic principles in the psychology of learning are served well in VR, the need for:
These are all provided by VR. I’ve never seen so many people so entranced with a piece of new technology. You will pay full attention in a way that you’ve never experienced before, be fully and emotionally engaged and do things as if they were real. Because your consciousness is so immersed in the learning task, transfer will be high, along with retention. What’s not to like?