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					Emerging Technology for Teaching and Learning

          Professor Roberto Joseph

     Topic: Virtual Reality in Classrooms

                 Nazia Khan
      As technology increases day to day in our world, it allows us to

lead a more sufficient lifestyle. This same concept is now able to be

adopted into the world of education. With the amount of resources

available to teach the core curriculum the use of special technology

has now come into play in our own classrooms allowing teachers to go

beyond the books. Science is a subject which is should be caught

using many visuals. However, today we are able to expand the visuals

and use virtual reality, an artificial environment set up by computer

programs which mimics reality.



      The actual term Virtual Reality (VR) is usually interpreted as a

program that allows a person to navigate a space that feels real but in

actuality it is computer generated program. The VR programs come

built in with the system that allows the information and images to be

viewed in 3-dimentional. They also come with headphones and special

information gloves which allow one to experience the program. These

programs are used by many professionals from engineers, computer

analysts, and geologists all the way to a doctor. While VR is a great

tool for all these professionals it can not replace the experience of a

geologist who is collecting rock samples from the Rocky Mountains.

However, as a science teacher VR is the best tool to create an
environment that aids students to understand the process of rock

formation or how a volcano erupts.



      Virtual reality takes the concept of showing students pictures

into having the students experience the subject matter with 3-

dimensional formats. Incorporating different dimensions to the

students allows them to read into the text and bring it to life. By

choosing specific subjects to explore virtual reality programs presents

students the opportunity to control their own learning at their own

pace. Most of our students as extremely visual learners with the

amount of technology they are already surround by for example; video

games, television, computers, and handhelds.     Looking at our present

situation us as educators must learn to explore methods in which

students which respond most too. As each generation changes

learning styles we must also change our teaching methods.

      My particular area of interested was to take a closer look at the

use of VR in teaching earth science. Earth science is one of the

hardest sciences for the students to really understand because so

much of the learning has to do with understand visuals. This includes

understanding the solar system, looking at maps, the causes of natural

phenomenons such as earthquakes and volcanoes and predicting the

ocean currents during specific times. The topics vary along the year
and it is my goal to have students remember as much information as

they can and to really comprehend the core concepts. When I started

to use VR for myself I realized that my appreciation for the subject

greatly increased. We as teachers sometimes forget that the subjects

we teach can be difficult and it is our duty to change our methods.

When I became familiar with free programs I found online I began to

use them in the classroom with great success. The complaint that I

have is that majority of the best software in VR science topics must be

purchased and are quite expensive. So far that is the main obstacle

that teachers face with using the software.

      My personal experience of using virtual reality in the classroom

has shown tremendous success among all my students. From

teaching an inclusion class all the way to honors class I was able to

use the same concept across the board. The surprising result was that

there was success rate among all my classes. The rate of success

which I choose to measure in was the student’s performance on a quiz

covering the material which was presented to them using 3-D

stimulations. The results were just astonishing as the advanced

students gained as much information as the lower level students. By

looking through the websites of VR all students were able to stay on

task, follow the directions, and answer the questions without much

guided instruction from me. It allowed the students to be independent
and have a chance to learn through what they were interested in. By

the end of the activity all of children had clicked on all the information

but they were able to go at their own pace. This is a huge advantage

in using 3-D programs because they are built to allow students to use

most of their senses including sight, touch and sound. This is a lot

more than looking a flat picture on a handout.



      One of the best free virtual programs available when teaching

astronomy can be found in nationalgeographic.com. This program

allows the student to choose the planet and explore that planet by

looking through the physical features and reading about them at the

same time. The site also allows for a narrator to speak while you are

able to navigate the site. This is extremely helpful for those students

who have lower reading comprehension. This type of virtual program

can help them stay on task and keep up with the lesson because of the

numerous resources the site has to offer. This particular site provides

many options for the student to choose from. For example, they can

decide to take a closer look at sun spots or watch a solar storm on

Saturn.   It is more meaningful for my students to actually watch a

demonstration of an event happening rather than looking at still

pictures. They are able to retain the information longer and have a

better understanding of astronomy.
      According to research done by McComas there has been a huge

success in increasing the quality of education with children with

disabilities. Virtual reality (VR) programs are a known success in a

regular classroom and are now proving to be more helpful for those

students who have learning disabilities. Technology has allowed a

chance for these children to have an opportunity to enhance their

motor and cognitive skills. Children who have limited motor skills can

easily use VR programs with a click of a finger and will be able to work

independently.   If a lab was done where the same student was

required to use manipulatives, they will be unable to accomplish the

task because of their disability. However, if the same lab is offered

online through a VR program they can learn the material that was

supposed to be learned by doing the physical lab. The programs also

allow the students to minimize their disability and focus on learning.



      I became familiar with using virtual reality software in my class,

I began to spread the word and found an answer to my problem

mentioned earlier about the cost. As other science teachers saw the

impact my students were having with the free software we all agreed

to collect money and buy one program that we can all share

throughout the year. I will continue to use VR in all units covered
since it shows such a fast success rate among my students. I believe

that new and better programs will continue to be developed and I am

looking forward to see the advancement.
Bibliography:

1.http://thejournal.com/articles/14132

2.http://www.nasa.gov/audience/foreducators/topnav/subjects/techno

logy/Virtual_Reality.html

3.http://www.sciencenewsforkids.org/articles/20031022/Feature1.asp

				
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