The Role Of Virtual Reality In Education

The Role Of Virtual Reality In The Future Of Education

Our students are changing. Shouldn't our education tools be, too?


What if you could really walk a mile in someone else's shoes? Well, maybe not literally *in* their shoes, but we could be really getting to know about someone and where they live in the world.

Virtual reality (VR) is simultaneously a field that has been the center of current technological development and yet has been explored very little outside of the few fields that have adopted it. Thinking about the first field that comes to mind when mentioning virtual reality, video and PC gaming comes to mind. There are filmmakers and artists who are integrating virtual reality into their work. However, when I asked a virtual reality developer their opinion about the future of VR in filmmaking, their response echoed some of the literature that is available on VR in films. They explained that VR presents opportunities for novel filmmaking, but will not be involved in the mainstream for quite a while.

In Ty Burr's article in the MIT Technology Review, called "Hollywood Has No Idea What to Do with VR," Burr explains that "VR will never become the new cinema." This is agreed on for various reasons, including, the fact that classic films cannot be properly recreated using VR technology and the idea that one would no longer be following a linear storyline, in the sense of a visual linear storyline. Burr ponders, "What is that [different] thing" that VR will become.

Currently, I see the most use for VR video and film as an education tool for students and teachers. I first saw the potential of VR as an educational opportunity when I was introduced to Google Expeditions. The app is here for download and further exploration, but the basic understanding is that Expeditions serves as a "virtual reality teaching tool" which places users anywhere in the world without leaving the physical space that they're in.

I saw the opportunity for students to learn from teachers across the globe, and walk around Paris, Egypt, or Mumbai and learn about the different cities: their politics, culture, geography, and ecosystems. There was also the advantage of students teaching students, maybe taking kids their age through a day in their lives. Speaking to people different from ourselves and learning their different languages, especially for young children, has been shown to increase empathy and curiosity.

There is also the added benefit of reducing the human carbon footprint as students and researchers can explore different parts of the globe without having to go there, themselves. This could be effective for places such as the Galapagos Islands or Antarctica which are environments that are being affected by increased tourism.

Virtual reality is already involved in educational institutions around the country and its working. Cost-effective models are being developed, as explored in this article by The Washington Post, are should be encouraged by districts and teachers to be implemented. There are some arguments against the addition of VR into the education program, including the health and concentration of students, the cost of the tech, and the need to support in-class education by real-life teachers.

Now, I understand all these concerns. I taught for a couple years myself, and I valued the face-to-face time with my students and teaching them in the classroom, instead of using Google Drive and Inbox all the time. But, I'm not encouraging the removal of teachers from our classrooms, at all. What I am suggesting, is providing advanced tools for our teachers so that they can best educate our students. By seeing what a blue whale looks like by 'swimming' next to one, there is a lesser need for just reading information out of a textbook and teachers can focus more on answering questions and fostering that necessary curiosity at a younger age.

We don't know the future of this technology, for sure. However, the options that are opened up by virtual reality tools must be priceless. From personal experience, students can feel stifled and confused if they cannot see what they are being taught, and only receiving theory in a book. I love books, but they can only tell you so much before you have to observe it for yourself. Virtual reality is the first step towards accommodating a new generation of technologically-aware and active students who want to know more because they have access to more content that we have ever before.

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Austin Alexander Burridge, Volunteer Advocate, Shares 3 Great Reasons to Volunteer and Help Others

Austin Alexander Burridge is an avid academic who studies Environmental Science at Winona State University and believes that work in the service of others is a key pillar to personal development.


Sometimes it's easy for someone to adopt a "me, me, me" attitude. While focusing on oneself, a person may feel nice in the moment, but serving and helping others will bring lasting benefits. While there are many great reasons to serve and help others, there are three universal truths that resonate with volunteers around the globe.

Austin Alexander Burridge's 3 Reasons to Volunteer:

1. Accomplishment

Often, people fall into a trap of focusing on themselves when they are feeling down. Maybe someone did not get a job they wanted. Or perhaps a person gets dumped by an expected lifelong companion. Maybe someone feels they have underachieved after looking at Facebook and seeing great things a high school classmate has accomplished. When feeling down, helping others is a proven way to improve one's mood and attitude, and it can provide a sense of pride and accomplishment. The act of giving to those in need is an inherently good action and leaves people with a wonderful feeling of joy.

2. Gratitude

One can become more appreciative of life by serving others that have less. Whether volunteering at a soup kitchen, visiting the elderly at an assisted living center, or helping families after a natural disaster, service enables people to be grateful for what they have. Seeing people who have fewer advantages, especially those who are spirited and thankful for small things, allows one to realize just how fortunate he/she is in life.

3. Friendships

Volunteering is a great way to build meaningful friendships, not only with other volunteers but also with those who are served. One of the most profound and fascinating aspects of these relationships is how volunteers will learn from those served and vice versa. As these special bonds are built, they lead to impactful connections that last for years to come.

Of course, these are just a few reasons to volunteer and serve others. One can never go wrong by helping others as opposed to merely focusing on oneself. Volunteering invariably and inevitably contributes to personal growth, development, and satisfaction.

About Austin Alexander Burridge: Helping others has been of paramount importance to Austin, and as a part of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), Austin gave back to the community around him. He also has participated in annual peanut butter drives, The Minnesota Sandwich Project for the Homeless and collected canned goods for local food shelters. Additionally, Austin has a passion for the environment, which he pursued when visiting the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador, and the Amazon Rain Forest while studying at the School of Environment Studies, which investigates ecological systems and their sustainability

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Saying You "Don't Take Political Stances" IS A Political Stance

All you're doing by saying this is revealing your privilege to not care politically, and here's why that's a problem.


I'm sure all of us know at least one person who refuses to engage in political discussions - sure, you can make the argument that there is a time and a place to bring up the political happenings of our world today, but you can't possibly ignore it all the time. You bring up the last ridiculous tweet our president sent or you try to discuss your feelings on the new reproductive regulation bills that are rising throughout the states, and they find any excuse to dip out as quickly as possible. They say I don't talk about politics, or I'm apolitical. Well everyone, I'm here to tell you why that's complete bullsh*t.

Many people don't have the luxury and privilege of ignoring the political climate and sitting complacent while terrible things happen in our country. So many issues remain a constant battle for so many, be it the systematic racism that persists in nearly every aspect of our society, the fact that Flint still doesn't have clean water, the thousands of children that have been killed due to gun violence, those drowning in debt from unreasonable medical bills, kids fighting for their rights as citizens while their families are deported and separated from them... you get the point. So many people have to fight every single day because they don't have any other choice. If you have the ability to say that you just don't want to have anything to do with politics, it's because you aren't affected by any failing systems. You have a privilege and it is important to recognize it.

Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "history will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people."

We recognize that bad people exist in this world, and we recognize that they bring forth the systems that fail so many people every single day, but what is even more important to recognize are the silent majority - the people who, by engaging in neutrality, enable and purvey the side of the oppressors by doing nothing for their brothers and sisters on the front lines.

Maybe we think being neutral and not causing conflict is supposed to be about peacekeeping and in some way benefits the political discussion if we don't try to argue. But if we don't call out those who purvey failing systems, even if it's our best friend who says something homophobic, even if it's our representatives who support bills like the abortion ban in Alabama, even if it's our president who denies the fact that climate change is killing our planet faster than we can hope to reverse it, do we not, in essence, by all accounts of technicality side with those pushing the issues forward? If we let our best friend get away with saying something homophobic, will he ever start to change his ways, or will he ever be forced to realize that what he's said isn't something that we can just brush aside? If we let our representatives get away with ratifying abortion bans, how far will the laws go until women have no safe and reasonable control over their own bodily decisions? If we let our president continue to deny climate change, will we not lose our ability to live on this planet by choosing to do nothing?

We cannot pander to people who think that being neutral in times of injustice is a reasonable stance to take. We cannot have sympathy for people who decide they don't want to care about the political climate we're in today. Your attempts at avoiding conflict only make the conflict worse - your silence in this aspect is deafening. You've given ammunition for the oppressors who take your silence and apathy and continue to carry forth their oppression. If you want to be a good person, you need to suck it up and take a stand, or else nothing is going to change. We need to raise the voices of those who struggle to be heard by giving them the support they need to succeed against the opposition.

With all this in mind, just remember for the next time someone tells you that they're apolitical: you know exactly which side they're on.


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