Sunday, December 11, 2016

The Potential of Virtual Reality

Many educators, including myself, routinely talk about the need for innovation in education. If we continue to employ the same type of thinking then we will get the same or results. We also run the risk of taking a step backwards and experiencing worse results than anticipated.  Change isn’t coming; it is already on our doorstep! Thus we must begin to embrace new ideas and methodologies.  It can be concluded then that change is necessary in a digital world thanks to the exponential evolution of technology.  

We must begin to explore and implement innovative learning activities beyond isolated pockets of excellence.  Innovation in education can defined as creating, implementing, and sustaining transformative ideas that instill awe to improve learning. Technology not only awes, but it can also empower our learners in amazing ways. It’s time to start asking and focusing on the right questions. It is difficult for many educators, including myself, to keep up with the evolving digital landscape.  Being able to access information is only a start. When you think about it we are drowning in a sea of information. Access only matters if it is turned into new knowledge and action.

Lets now apply the elements of innovation, change, access, and knowledgeable action to the evolving technology of virtual reality.  Just a few years ago this type of technology was financially out of reach for the majority of schools across the world. Now, however, educators can provide access to an artificial world that consists of images and sounds that is affected by the actions of a student who is experiencing. Thanks to innovative products like Google Cardboard virtual experiences can be provided to students with just one smartphone and a $15 cardboard box outfitted with two lenses.  

There are so many educational experiences that students can engage in using Google Cardboard, the world’s most affordable VR headset. Teachers can bring lessons to life with Google Expeditions and take students on interactive, virtual field trips. Below is the description from Google:

Google Expeditions enable teachers to bring students on virtual trips to places like museums, underwater, and outer space. Expeditions are collections of linked virtual reality (VR) content and supporting materials that can be used alongside existing curriculum. These trips are collections of virtual reality panoramas — 360° panoramas and 3D images — annotated with details, points of interest, and questions that make them easy to integrate into curriculum already used in schools.

To get started and view a complete list of Google Expeditions click HERE. The benefit of VR and Cardboard is not limited to Google Expeditions. There is an array of free and paid apps available.  For a list of some free apps that can be utilized in the classroom click HERE.

The potential of VR lies well beyond just accessing and viewing information on a device such as Google Cardboard.  For an innovative learning activity such as this to have real value the information gleaned from the experience should be transformed into knowledge and action.  Take a look at the video below to see what I mean.

As the mother states, innovation saved her daughter’s life.  The doctors not only used VR and Google Cardboard, but they did these important steps:

  • Accessed and collected vital information
  • Converted information into new knowledge
  • Used new knowledge to develop a solution and act

This example is the epitome of innovative learning.  It is my hope that we will move students well beyond just viewing and accessing information through VR technology and use the simple process above.  Actually, we need to lend a more critical eye to why and how technology is currently being used in education to veer away from surface level integration and substitution. The Rigor Relevance Framework provides great guidance on how to make this happen.


  1. I feel like you literally read my mind with this blog post. Thank you for the great info!

  2. The key challenge with VR and other new technologies is to make sure that in using them that they are enhancing learning and not just providing a wow factor.

  3. Great blog. As I myself a teacher so I can understand the thinking and feelings of a Principle. Education is really a reflective practice.