In the ever-growing world of educational technology resources, teachers find themselves with many new educational technology tools available as a means of supplementing their instructional methods and pedagogical approaches. While some of these are more applicable to specific grade levels and content areas than others, those that incorporate virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) stand out for a variety of reasons.
Apps that utilize VR and AR provide immersive experiences that engage students in ways that cannot be replicated in the two-dimensional world of textbooks and handouts. Our students live in a world driven by screens, so why not capitalize on these technologies to bolster student engagement by creating learning experiences that only a few years ago seemed like science fiction.
Virtual Reality Defined
It is important to note the difference between virtual reality and augmented reality to better understand their applicability to specific learning environments and instructional objectives. Virtual reality (VR) is extremely immersive educational technology and typically utilizes 360 degree images to replicate the visual experience of seeing an object, destination, or process from the first-person perspective.
By using a smartphone, educational apps, and a VR headset, students can be instantly transported to locations that would otherwise be inaccessible in the classroom. Examples of these types of lower-end headsets include Google Cardboard and the Mattel View-Master Deluxe. While there are higher-end forms of VR available such as the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift, these come with expensive price tags and necessitate high-powered GPU computer processors that are not practical expenses for the average school district.
Augmented Reality Defined
Augmented reality (AR) has the potential to bring even more options into the classroom in terms of interactivity and accessibility. This technology projects a three-dimensional digital object into the physical space of the real world by utilizing the high-powered camera and processor found in most smart phones and tablets today. Students can explore that object from all angles and perspectives to provide a learning experience that teeters on the edge of real-life, especially those that feature the human body with interactive lungs, hearts, or brains.