You know what makes the internet awesome? You get to explore it. You get to use it for your own learning, making, communicating, collaborating, researching, and thinking purposes.
When I was 12 years old logging onto Prodigy or AOL, there was no program. There were websites, mail, and places to go; but it was my “world wide web” to navigate and search and play.
While we’ve seen our fair share of “web-based learning programs” pop up online (remember they all used to be on CDs) the web has still managed to stay open and free for the most part. To that end, it has allowed, supported, and even praised the mantra of “make it yours” and use it with individual and group purpose.
Enter virtual reality.
In my limited experiences with VR (virtual reality), it has shown to have amazing promise in a few key areas.
First, it’s ability to layer on top of the web a virtual infrastructure and world to explore is the most exciting. This extension of the internet is what people like Kevin Kelley are calling the moment the internet grew up. He says, “Virtual reality is a fake world that feels absolutely authentic.”
Second, VR promises to engage, at least at the outset. Students and teachers immersed in a virtual world will most likely trigger the release of dopamine, much like students do now while playing a video game or receiving a text, or like on their Instagram photo. We have an entire generation of students are used to technology delivering dopamine, and they have that technology often in their pockets at school. VR is a way to make that connection in some settings.
However, despite the excitement I have around VR, the real problem is how it is going to be marketed by companies, institutions, and education tech startups.
Let me make this clear: We don’t want a virtual reality learning program.
Don’t package a program for VR. Don’t make a VR curriculum. Don’t trivialize VR into something that can be sold at a per student price.
If Virtual Reality is going to have any impact on learning, then it needs to be open, organic, free, and expanding…just like the web.
I can’t wait to see how VR transforms our world and gives us new learning experiences and avenues for collaboration, creativity, and thinking. But please don’t ruin it from the outset by trying to package a technology that is meant to expand our experiences. Let education use it like we’ve used the web, and I know the possibilities for learning can be endless.
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