Virtual reality technology brings new outlook on education

Virtual reality changes the way we view education.

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Virtual reality technology brings new outlook on education

Alexandra Demeule, Staff Writer

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Virtual reality has teachers and students excited for the future of education.

Virtual reality technology [VR] is a computer-generated [CG] simulation of a three-dimensional image or environment. It has become increasingly popular within education because of the immersive experience VR provides users. Sophomore Spencer Arnold and Freshman Caitlyn Douglass were able to test out VR technology through the use of a Google Cardboard Headset and a VR roller coaster app.

“You can look around which is really interesting,” said Arnold putting on the headset. “It’s strangely exhilarating. I didn’t expect to be able to do that.”

The headset is a goggle like device that goes over your eyes. It has a screen that matches up with your field of vision to give you the feeling of being where and doing whatever the screen displays, in this case, a full length roller coaster.

“Because I lifted my toes up, I kind of feel a little tingle, almost as if I am walking on air,” said Arnold. “Compared to what I thought it would be, I’d say it definitely feels as if I were actually there.”

Using the headset can be a bit confusing at first, but after your eyes adjust you can look around and view your surroundings. Your brain perceives what is happening on the screen as a real occurring event even though it’s a simulation.

“Dang, okay. My heart just stopped,” said Arnold as the ride began. “We just went in a straight downward spiral and my heart just stopped for a second. It’s so fast.”

The graphics [as of now] are more animated than realistic, but that doesn’t prevent your brain from believing it’s real.

“The buildings actually look real,” said Douglass trying on the headset. “That’s really cool, but it is kind of disorientating.”

VR technology, such as Google Cardboard, is beginning to be used within classrooms for educational purposes. Through VR, students are able to go on field trips, perform dissections, witness historical events, and tour strange places, such as space or the ocean [via CG simulation].

“I think VR would be most helpful in a history or social science class,” said Douglass. “It lets you be there and see what’s happening. In a normal history class, you can’t really get in touch with it because it all happened in the past.”

New programs are being developed every day to create interesting VR experiences that can assist a teacher in the classroom. Alternative Education teacher William Harriman and Math teacher Kaitlyn Haase believe VR technology would be beneficial to the students of BHS.

“It would be great for the kids just because some of the topics that we discuss, whether it’s history, science, or whatever, can be difficult to grasp,” said Harriman. “To take them there and get a sense of what it is, not just listening or seeing it on a flat screen, but to be able to be surrounded by it, I think the kids would love that.”

The use of VR would eliminate the need for students to sit through lectures and decipher text books; instead they would be able to see and interact with exactly what they are learning about.

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Kaitlyn Haase

I think it’s something that a lot of people would take advantage of,” said Haase. “ Even if it’s just a simulation, something that is three-dimensional can be more powerful than simply looking through a textbook or pictures that are two-dimensional.”

— Kaitlyn Haase

VR can be applied to each class and every subject in many different ways. Art teacher Donna Powers was happy to hear about the advantages VR would provide in her classroom.

“I could have kids look at what they are going to be drawing,” said Powers. “It would be perfect for something like that.”

Technology, such as VR, is an ever increasing part of modern day life and some argue that the addition of VR will make learning easier for students. English teacher Jayne Sheltra doesn’t know if it would make learning easier, but she does believe students are more familiar with technology.

“I don’t know if they would learn any easier,” said Sheltra. “ But I think it’s a more native process for kids now because they’ve grown up with it being around all the time; so just using books and paper and pencils and pens would take away from some of that.”

There are also those who are against the addition of VR  technology in schools. Some argue that students may lose important social skills because they will be interacting with computers and not other students.

“You see it today with young kids on their devices,” said Harriman. “They’ve got their iPads or their phones and they just get addicted to them. They lose the social component of what we are doing right now-human interaction.”

VR has the potential to change education, but no one seems to know what effect it will have on society. The future of VR remains unknown.

“Does the universe end? Is it in a box? I don’t know. It’s too far, my imagination can’t go there,” said Harriman. “Look at how much has already happened. So many things that have only been imagination have become real.”

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