July 22, 2019

It's Ironic 7

Educational VR: The Irony of it All

The trendy presence of virtual reality these days leaves me with a sense of irony. (Please look at previous posts in this series for the context.) 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 last effort at ironic sentiment: 

Complaint: Our 3D content won’t run on that other hardware platform.

Educator response to 3D (5 years ago): “Why do I need to buy that type of hardware and not just use what I’ve got?” “The content is too hardware specific.” “Our district won’t support that brand of equipment, sorry.”

Educator response to VR (today ), though VR also lacks unifying standards: “I don’t care—how can we do it?” “It’s just sexy!” “I’ll find a way.”

Of course, my entire message for this entire series plays on the irony of the times we are in. Virtual Reality is succeeding in the education market today, well, because, well, it’s… sexy. How long that will last? Who knows, but I suspect these questions won’t just go away. For now, here is how the education market works: over the next year or so, suppliers need to fill in the missing pieces and answer the unanswered questions or VR will be left in the backwaters of time and will be replaced by the latest trending whatchamacallit or gadget. Welcome to education. And P.S.: don’t show this article to your local VR enthusiast. Why not? Incongruity overly frustrates their sense of forward progress.

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