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Week 12: Alternate Realities!

Augmented, mixed, and virtual realities provide incredible potential for interesting and engaging learning experiences. As technology increases, particularly in rarity and price, learning experiences can also increase. However, this is often only for those that can afford it.  

Read more: Week 12: Alternate Realities!

I find these technologies extremely interesting, and I certainly would be interested in experimenting with using them within the classroom. However, as the presenting group mentioned, any discussion of these topics requires an understanding of the difference between Virtual, Augmented, and Mixed realities. The basic defining characteristics of each are seen in the image below.

My own experience is very brief, starting with something fairly basic, yet oddly futuristic, Google Cardboard. This was an accessible* ($10-20, yet you need your own smartphone) VR Experience that was released in 2014. Receiving one during Christmas of 2015, I was able to use my phone to experience VR for the first time. It was truly a wild thing to experience for the first time, as I was able to explore 360-degree videos from all over the world, with a feeling of immersion that I had never experienced before. From there, I also have limited experiences Beat Saber on a friends PlayStation, while also exploring augmented reality in Pokémon Go.  

Within the classroom however, I haven’t had the chance to experience using these technologies with students. I’ve heard whispers of our school division potentially buying some and will be quick to sign up if that happens. I see many potential opportunities, particularly for my Social Studies and Drafting students. It would be incredibly engaging to allow my students to virtually visit the coast of France when we are talking about the Second World War, or vising cities from around the world when we do our project on Cultures of the World. How cool would it be to put on a headset, and virtually visit cities like Beijing, Rio De Janeiro, Berlin, or Cape Town?

Furthermore, particularly for my Drafting students that work on architecture, imagine putting on the headset to experience the scale and beauty of buildings like the Sydney Opera House, the Burj Khalifa, the CN Tower, or the Taj Mahal?

Also, although it’s not first-hand knowledge, I have heard about a community organization that comes into our school and allows students to try various job simulators, using a VR headset. Learning how to operate a crane, heavy machinery, or work as an electrician, seem like great way to utilize this technology. Giving students opportunities that they wouldn’t be able to enjoy otherwise is a hugely understated benefit to this technology.

While I am personally interested in this, I’m a bit on the fence about how far I would go to integrate it into my classroom. Through one of our suggested viewings for this week, we were able to experience how a teacher has designed a probability lesson within the virtual world of the game Half-Life. Again, I am definitely interested in this, but the practical side of my brain wonders if it would be beneficial to do once or twice a semester, rather than utilize it has a regular teaching tool. Thinking back to the SAMR model, and meaningful integration of technology, I’m wondering if the effort and set-up time would be beneficial over other methods of teaching the same content. Another one of our suggested readings tried to measure this, utilizing an experiment that measured the difference in the teaching of a science lesson. Separate groups were taught with video, or instead with ‘immersive virtual reality.’ The research team saw mixed results and concluded that learning in virtual reality is not more effective than learning with video. However, the authors also state something that we’ve been discussing all semester.

“The results suggest that the value of IVR (immersive virtual reality) for learning science depends on how it is integrated into a classroom lesson.”

(Makransky, et. al., 2021)

The other issue with this and all emerging, expensive, or rate technologies, is the potential to further the digital divide. These technologies aren’t available to everyone. Access is dependent on the ability to acquire a smartphone at the very least, or a powerful computer or gaming system on the higher end. We must remain cognizant of how access to these technologies will affect our students, particularly when it comes to our decisions about bringing them into our classrooms.

Photo by Jessica Lewis Creative on

Have you had a great experience with VR/MR/AR in the classroom? Let me know about it! I’m looking forward to the day where I can bring them into my classroom and get some first hand experience.


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