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...?

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