While I was reading this week’s assigned reading, I had an epiphany. It came shortly after reading Howard Rheingold’s claim that, “at the heart of VR [virtual reality] is an experience- the experience of being in a virtual world or remote location,” (pg. 22).

Now I know what your thinking, “there’s no way robots will be teaching my children!” I am not suggesting that we do the whole AI thing and remove teachers from the classrooms. There wont be a Rosie in the classroom like there was at The Jetson household. Rather, I feel extraordinary learning experiences can be made with the help of this new media we call virtual reality.

Back in high school, and really throughout all of my academia years, we (the students) obtained our knowledge of different subjects through various media. The most well known way was through a book. Like books, virtual reality exists from a combination of past media. Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin discussed a process in the text they called “remediation.” Remediation is used to describe how new media are making progress by collaborating with more traditional media genres. Virtual reality for example, is a remediation of film, television, photography, and print. Interestingly enough, at one point or another, scholars will obtain some kind of informational knowledge through one if not all of these media.

Virtual reality in the classroom could be the answer for the permanently bored student. For a student, the ability to “authentically” experience what they are learning will help keep the concepts in their stored memory. The same concept has been said of physically writing notes by hand as opposed to via computer, for an example.

Jaron Lanier, a developer for virtual reality systems, suggested that in virtual reality, “you can visit the world of the dinosaur, then become a Tyrannosaurus. Not only can you see DNA, you can experience what it’s like to be a molecule,” (pg. 22). How cool would it be to go visit the Taj Mahal in 2nd period and then see what lung cancer looks like in 5th period? 3D cinema has been jabbing at this concept for the last few years. And it’s beginning to catch on. Society enjoys being able to experience, if you will, what they are viewing. Having the feeling they are literally standing with Harry Potter in Hogwarts or fighting against the Imperial Forces in Star Wars is the goal of 3D film. Virtual reality as well as other digital technologies, are trying to create the sense of transparency between the user and the medium in order to create the feeling that the user is actually there. Making these technologies transparent is an aide in the virtual experience. Military personnel have for a while now been using VR technology in an effort to prepare pilots and foot soldiers for their upcoming deployments. They also use it in addition to a simulator to teach tank drivers how to deal with claustrophobia and vehicular warfare. What brings VR to life is this idea that it is so realistic, so tangible, your not focused that much on the real/physical world.

Virtual reality could become the next best teachers aide… Well, it was just an idea.

By. Sarah Crowe