Week 4: Reading Reflection

The Value of VR in Education

This week’s readings invite us to think critically about the role of virtual reality (VR) in education, along with ethical/moral implications that are intertwined with the use of VR. For instance, Darvasi (2016) cautions that “VR may have unprecedented value to education, but that very same power must be managed responsibly.” So, what exactly is the value of VR and digital technologies in education? Further, what must educators and students do to ensure that VR is used responsibly?

The value of VR, AR, and digital technologies for education is discussed by Dede (2014) in “The Role of Digital Technologies in Deeper Learning.” Dede (2014) argues that deeper learning can be achieved through the implementation of digital teaching platforms (DTPs). DTPs can lead to deeper learning as they enable the following classroom practices, which Dede (2014) claims are essential to achieve deeper learning: “case-based instruction, the use of multiple representations, collaborative learning, and the use of diagnostic assessments” (p. 13).  However, what exactly is “deeper learning”? Dede’s (2014) deeper learning agenda highlights three major and essential skills: cognitive, intrapersonal, and interpersonal. When students “apply their knowledge and skills to real-world contexts,” deeper learning can be achieved (Dede, 2014, p. 1). As a result, a key, valuable feature of VR/AR in the classroom is that these technologies provide contextual knowledge that enables students to connect their learning to the real world. For instance, Dede (2014) states that “applying academic insights to the real world—and translating real-world experience into academic insights—is an essential feature of deeper learning” (p. 16). Essentially, Dede (2014) highlights that AR promotes apprenticeship-based learning and learning for transfer, which are practices that enable deeper learning. Ultimately, Dede (2014) importantly states, “MUVEs and AR also can provide rich interdisciplinary and experiential types of learning, which are unusual in traditional education. All these deeper learning capabilities of immersive authentic simulations are designed to function effectively in a classroom and in local settings outside of school” (p. 13).

Furthermore, Bailenson et al. (2008) also discuss the value of digital technologies, specifically immersive virtual reality, in education. They describe how virtual environments “enable transformed social interaction (TSI), the ability of teachers and students to use digital technology to strategically alter their online representations and contexts in order to improve learning” (Bailenson et al. 2008, p. 103). Bailenson et al.’s (2008) collaborative virtual environment (CVE) experiments found that learning was increased through digital transformations of teachers and learners in CVEs (p. 129). Bailenson et al. (2008) concluded that “by having multiple students sit in a privileged virtual seat simultaneously, optimizing behaviors or physical presence of co-learners, or by augmenting perceptions, student nonverbal behaviors, attention, and learning can be altered” (p. 129). However, I found this idea of altering behaviour, attention, and learning problematic because it takes away the agency that students should be given to take ownership of and control their own learning. I think it is more important to explore how learning can be transformed through CVEs rather than simply perpetuating the same lecture-style classroom digitally.

Finally, returning to Darvasi (2016) and the question of using VR responsibly, five ethical concerns must be considered. Darvasi (2016) categorizes these ethical concerns as follows: “long-term effects and prolonged exposure; the impact of environment on agency and behaviour; aggravating preexisting psychological or emotional issues; (un)reality and diminished real world interactions; and privacy and data gathering”. To implement VR responsibly in the classroom, educators must address these ethical concerns in order to enable meaningful learning, without the negative backlash/implications of VR.

Week 4 Readings:

1. Darvasi, P. Mindshift (2016)  VR and 5 Ethical Considerations
2. Dede, C. (2014). The Role of Digital Technologies in Deeper Learning. Harvard Education: White Paper.
3. Bailenson et al (2008). The Use of Immersive Virtual Reality in the Learning Sciences: Digital Transformations of Teachers, Students, and Social Context, The Journal of Learning Science. 17: 102–141, 2008.


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