Our group decided to explore virtual reality (VR) as our educational technology. The first issue we ran into was the ambiguity of the medium in education; this is undoubtedly brought on by the trend that plagues new technologies. As Weller points out, new technologies tend to be used in old ways before their novel characteristics are realized (2020, p. 64). Most programs and activities involving VR require all group members to have a unique piece of hardware, the headset, to be immersed in the activity. Likewise, many of these activities did not engage the user in the technology’s unique features, often leaning towards lecture halls or behaviorist deliveries of the curriculum that had the learner disengaged from the learning activity. To alleviate these issues, we decided to create a specialized learning activity.

The goal of our learning activity was to engage all members in synchronous communication that examined the affordances of the technology while creating a final tangible product for others to view. However, only one group member had a headset and, therefore, had to be the sole avatar of the group. The team used a 3D painting program called Tilt Brush (Google, n.d.) to visualize their current understanding of VR concerning their specific questions and the their area of specialization they wanted to explore within the technology. Starting with a seed, each member designed their visual representation by talking and interacting with the avatar. During this exploration, it was encouraged to think beyond the current activity to how the technology could be applied to their work in LRNT 526 and beyond.

 

Four articles were selected to give group members the foundational knowledge they needed to engage in VR literature and explore their areas of focus. The first article offered a comprehensive overview of the current literature involving immersive virtual reality (I-VR), focusing on retention and pedagogical approaches by learning using the medium. (Hamilton et al., 2021). The second article focused on higher education labs and experiences, with case studies that explored which approaches and technologies worked for their specific application (Hernández-de-Menéndez et al., 2019). The next article focused on K–12 applications, taking a deeper dive into the mixed reality spectrum and its applications in K–12 environments (Maas & Hughes, 2020). The final article focused on the student experience using VR and related technologies (Papanastasiou et al., 2019). It was hoped that, by reading these articles, all group members would have an adequate foundation to explore their areas with confidence. 

 

Fowler (2015) states that “innovative technologies should not necessarily be used to ‘emulate’ current practices” (p. 416). Indeed, AR/VR offers the opportunity to provide innovative, pedagogically sound experiences that address current students’ learning needs. As real learning experiences are often impractical in both online and face-to-face classroom teaching, our team will be exploring questions of how to best utilize AR/VR’s unique characteristics to enhance current teaching practices and improve student learning. A few key questions the group is looking to answer through their critical inquiry include:

  • How do you effectively test learning using virtual reality?
  • What are the logistics of introducing VR into a clinical environment?
  • What are the potential ways VR could improve test proctoring?
  • How do we ensure privacy and data security when private corporations control VR?
  • How can AR be used effectively in a second language learning environment?

Our team has focused on virtual reality in education and how it relates to our various practices and contexts. To achieve this, we created and participated in a social constructivist collaboration in which we created a visual representation of the topics we want to explore. We welcome you to discuss and critique the questions and ideas we have introduced within this post. Through this, we hope to refine and clarify our topics to improve our critical inquiry process. 

References

Fowler, C. (2015). Virtual reality and learning: Where is the pedagogy? British Journal of Educational Technology, 46(2), 412–422. https://doi.org/10.1111/bjet.12135

Google. (n.d.). Tilt Brush by Google. https://www.tiltbrush.com/

Hamilton, D., McKechnie, J., Edgerton, E., & Wilson, C. (2021). Immersive virtual reality as a pedagogical tool in education: A systematic literature review of quantitative learning outcomes and experimental design. Journal of Computers in Education, 8(1), 1–32. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40692-020-00169-2

Hernández-de-Menéndez, M., Vallejo Guevara, A., & Morales-Menendez, R. (2019). Virtual reality laboratories: A review of experiences. International Journal on Interactive Design and Manufacturing (IJIDeM), 13(3), 947–966. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12008-019-00558-7

Maas, M. J., & Hughes, J. M. (2020). Virtual, augmented and mixed reality in K–12 education: A review of the literature. Technology, Pedagogy and Education, 29(2), 231–249. https://doi.org/10.1080/1475939X.2020.1737210

Papanastasiou, G., Drigas, A., Skianis, C., Lytras, M., & Papanastasiou, E. (2019). Virtual and augmented reality effects on K-12, higher and tertiary education students’ twenty-first century skills. Virtual Reality, 23(4), 425–436. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10055-018-0363-2

Weller, M. (2020). 25 Years of Ed Tech. Athabasca University Press. https://doi.org/10.15215/aupress/9781771993050.01