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Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Educators Share Hopes, Concerns About Virtual Reality at ISTE | Education Week

 Ben Herold explores how technology is shaping teaching and learning and the management of schools.

"Virtual reality is hard to to escape at the nation's largest ed-tech conference this year" summarizes Sarah Schwartz, reporter for Education Week.

Tara Cahill, director of technology integration for Grand Prairie school district in Dallas, Texas, tries out an underwater virtual reality headset at the ISTE conference in Chicago, on June 25.
Photo: Michelle Kanaar for Education Week

Several dozen sessions at the International Society for Technology in Education's annual conference in Chicago touch on VR or offer tips for integrating it into the classroom, Google is offering tutorials for its Google Expeditions virtual tours, and a handful of VR vendors dot the exhibition hall.

But only about 5 percent of U.S. teachers say they're using VR in their classroom. The technology can be expensive for cash-strapped districts, and there's a lack of research on how VR will affect children. And even at a conference that draws tech-minded educators from around the country, some expressed reservations about VR's potential as a learning tool.

Education Week talked with educators about their hopes for—and concerns about—this new classroom technology.

"There's lots of ways to do virtual field trips, but this is a little more engaging," said Pamela Fontaine, a library media curriculum and instructional leader with Manchester Public Schools in Manchester, Conn., who uses Google Expeditions.

Teachers in her school's medical careers academy use the virtual tours to introduce the human body in action—students can follow the digestive system in one of the expeditions...

When the Novelty Wears Off 
But some teachers say simply touring a digital space doesn't meaningfully change learning.

"We're just substituting a picture book with technology," said Simon Dudar, a 5th grade science and social studies teacher at Haldane Central School District in Cold Spring, N.Y., of Google expeditions.

Dudar sees more promise in Poly, a Google VR platform that allows users to create their own 3-D spaces. He and his colleagues are hoping to map an inter-grade virtual world where 4th through 6th graders can create their own "rooms" and view their peers' work.

Source: Education Week