The theme for this week was virtual realities (VRs) and how these relate to deeper learning. The article by Villanueva reveals how VRs can evoke empathy from users and essentially, influence social change. Similarly, Darvasi touches on the benefits of VRs as well as some of the concerns, particularly the ethical concerns with this new technology. Bailenson, Yee, Blascovich, Beall, Lundblad, and Jin’s article discusses four experiments that they conducted through virtual environments that had the goal of improving learning in classrooms. Finally, Dede’s document for deeper learning explores what is needed from the education system in order to invoke deeper learning for all students and also touches on the use of virtual realities and multiuser virtual environments (MUVEs) as tools for deeper learning tasks.
Critical Response and Take Away Points
When reading these articles I was most drawn to Dede’s document and to Darvasi’s article. Dede provides a compelling overview particularly for the use of augmented realities and MUVES or virtual worlds for classrooms and I appreciated the use of graphics throughout as I am not familiar with these technologies. I am especially drawn to how students can immerse themselves in the curriculum while also learning other valuable skills such as collaboration, responsibility, and organization for instance. However, my concern (as is a reoccurring issue with digital technology in schools) is access. As mentioned in Dede’s discussion of the EcoMUVE project, some teachers note that there is a difficulty with providing students one-on-one access to the technology.
Moving on to Darvasi’s article, this is one that resonates with me as I have similar concerns to Darvasi in that I am concerned about possible triggers for students as well as diminished human connections. While virtual realities certainly lend themselves to incredible opportunities, I think that some of the consequences or side effects still need to be considered before complete acceptance. Perhaps the VRs would have to go through extensive ministry/board protocols in order to be approved for classroom use. Yet, even with approval, there is still the looming possibility that this type of simulation may not work for every student (just as all teaching methods do not work for every student) and we should be conscientious of this as well. I think that education and education advocates tend to want to bring in these new and exciting ideas and technologies without reviewing the entire picture beforehand. Educators have to keep in mind that even these new and exciting ideas and technologies may not totally work for students. Just because it’s technology doesn’t mean that it is foolproof or even worthwhile in some instances (thinking back to SAMR).
Connections Between Readings and Previous Week
These readings as already mentioned are all part of theme of virtual realities and can be connected to last week’s readings of inquiry-based learning and deep learning tasks. Specifically, virtual realities have the ability to create deep learning tasks and to embody inquiry-based learning.
“’If we are willing to allow ourselves to think a bit more broadly, VR may be a viable avenue for true shifts in how we think about learning’” (Darvasi)
“In short, the development of more sophisticated assessments is essential for the evolution of deeper learning, and technology offers a powerful vehicle by which to accomplish this…As discussed earlier in this paper, to attain the full benefits of deeper learning, it is critical to use technology to extend and empower good teaching and learning, not to replace them” (Dede 19).
“…the potential for the technology, with a mindful approach towards ethical implementation. “We need to be conscious of the psychological and physiological impacts. It is very easy to say, ‘Oh, the graphics on this one aren’t so good; they know it isn’t real.’ That is likely true, but the fascinating thing about the brain is that it still responds as if it is real. As educators, we need to be very aware of this and mindful of what experiences we choose to share with students.” (Darvasi)