Before beginning this learning topic, I was not aware of the many areas of education that virtual reality (VR) is being implemented in. I was surprised to find out how frequently it is used. When I thought about the applications of virtual reality in the classroom, I did not see many. Now I realize that there are a ton of opportunities to educate using VR. The primary application appears to be for science and math concepts and most of the research I came across looked at VR at the post secondary level. I now believe that VR can be a great resource for teachers to differentiate instruction and provide students with a plethora of learning experiences.
I do feel that right now students see virtual reality simulations as a game and not an educational lesson. The couple of times I have used VR simulations, my students thought it was fun but didn’t necessarily focus on the learning objective. Perhaps the only way to change this is to expose students to it more and more in an educational setting. Right now, they play video games during their free time and this is probably their only exposure to virtual reality; it is no wonder they see these simulations as a game when done at school. On the flip side, the fact that they view VR simulations as a game and actually enjoy completing them could make them highly motivating as an educational tool. I think that it will take more exposure and a teacher who clearly explains the learning objective before completing the simulation. There also needs to be some sort of student product that comes out of the experience that the teacher can provide feedback on to make it a valuable learning experience, not just a game.
Overall, I am excited about what I learned about virtual reality and to begin implementing it where it is educationally beneficial for my students. In the end though, like all technology, virtual reality needs to be used in moderation and can never replace the real life, hands-on experiences traditional education provides.