Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality - what is their future in education? Last year at ISTE I saw a number of exhibits of educational uses of virtual Reality. And of course there has been a lot of talk about Google Cardboard and Google Expeditions since they were announced. The hype is building. So I’m thinking. Sort of out loud in this blog post.
I wonder how it will play out though. The tools for VR, Cardboard not withstanding – you do still need a smart phone to use it, tend to be expensive. More importantly there isn’t a lot of content out there yet. I say “yet” to be optimistic. Virtual field trips sound cool. It will be a while though before it is just like being there.
Teaching computer science the uses for VR and AR don’t seem as obvious as they do for social studies or biology (virtual tour though the body anyone?) or several other subjects. Can we use VR to travel though recursive processes I wonder? Or even a CPU? Maybe. And maybe it would be cool. Possibly even helpful. Content will take a while. Maybe that is where the potential is for CS educators.
The tools for virtual reality and augmented reality are computer driven. Could we have CS students generate content? Or tools for generating content? Maybe. Assuming we have these students long enough for them to learn the tools they need. One teacher I talked to is using Unity and Minecraft to have students build content for Virtual Reality.
I’ve had students in the past create adventure-style games to do simple tours though a building. We’ve got a lot better tools for capturing and displaying video so maybe there is a next step. Though we have had 3D imaging for a while and we never saw the amazing things that seemed to promise. I’ve seen so many things over the years fail to live up to their promise that I tend to be a bit of a skeptic.
Ultimately VR and AR (which I expect to trail behind VR but which may have even more promise) to be things we have to talk about in computer science classes. One educator I talked to thinks that “the initial use [of VR] will be demonstrating the power and applications of technology.” That may be the case and that is valuable in CS classes. We have to look longer term though. We also have to start having conversations about the ethical and social complications of VR and AR.
Right now I don’t hear a lot of conversations about what those complications will be. They are not all knowable either. But thinking about them now will be helpful later on. And that is important.