June 17, 2019

It's Ironic 2


Educational VR: The Irony of it All

The stout and trendy presence of virtual reality these days leaves me with a hefty sense of irony. (Please look at last week's post for the intorduction to this series.) I am struck by the incongruity of the past and the future colliding in an uncomfortable way. I am describing something we’ve seen before—when we were pushing for 3D visualization tools in the classroom from 2010 through 2015. Virtual reality is all the rage today, but in the past, things didn’t look quite so bright. Though the technologies are really quite similar, something has changed. Here's my second effort at ironic sentiment: 

Complaint: 3D costs too much. 

Educator response to 3D (5 years ago): “We can’t afford this.” “How do you expect teachers to buy this for each classroom?” “This just isn’t sustainable, sorry.”

Educator response to VR (today), even though VR costs much more, per student: “Wow, this is so sexy!” “Where can I get more?” "I'll find a way."

June 10, 2019

It's Ironic Intro


Educational VR: The Irony of it All

I recall the hall of fame release by the Byrds in 1965, a song that rhythmically and hauntingly chanted:
To everything (turn, turn, turn) There is a season (turn, turn, turn) And a time to every purpose, under heaven…A time to build up, a time to break downA time to dance, a time to mournA time to cast away stones, a time to gather stones together…
This song aptly describes some of the emotions I experience while scouting VR at conferences. I am always struck by the incongruity of the past and the future colliding in an uncomfortable way.


I am describing something we’ve seen before—when we were pushing for 3D visualization tools in the classroom from 2010 through 2015. I know this arena well, having led one of the largest and most successful 3D implementations in U.S. schools, working closely with stalwart companies like Texas Instruments. Virtual reality is all the rage today, but in the past, things didn’t look quite so bright. Though the technologies are really quite similar, something has changed. We’ve morphed, as the Byrds would suggest, from a time of breaking down, to a period of building up. What happened? Over the next few posts, let me explain using a few juxtaposed examples. Here's my first example:

Complaint: These 3D glasses are just too heavy and uncomfortable for students.

Educator response to 3D (5 years ago): “They don’t fit the heads of children.” “They don’t work well for children wearing glasses.” “These just won’t work, sorry.”

Educator response to VR (today), even though glasses are heavier and more constraining: “Wow, isn’t this amazing!” “Can I try them on?” “How can I get more for my classroom?”

Isn't it ironic...?
 

June 3, 2019

Reality Check Conclusion


Let's pause and reflect on this series. I suppose, if you see the world pessimistically, the last four posts suggest that the penetration rate for VR as an emerging technology in education is far below the hype levels we all hear about; and if you view the world with rose-colored glasses, you might instead see this as a fertile market. [Shaping the Future] The bottom line problems with VR in education are well understood by educators. [Active] To educators, current VR experiences:
  • cover very little of the written school curriculum
  • are not easily managed in the classroom
  • haven’t learned from the experiences and failures of the 3D in education movement of the last decade
  • haven’t yet convinced teachers of their instructional merit
No, until virtual reality experiences can offer all of the requisite 4Es of education (engaging, effective, efficient, and easy to manage), we have a long way to go. [Immersive—Len Scrogan
Remember, I have deliberately embedded words of hope throughout this series, as seen in the top paragraph, in [bracketed italics]. These are expressions that literally shout the promise and potential of virtual reality, while counterbalancing any bad news.  These words are not just taken magically from the air, but consist of actual text snatched from the VR-related exhibit hall booths and sales literature at a recent ed-tech conference, ‘designer’ phraseology that help sell VR to tech-hungry educators.