Monday, July 11, 2016

Virtual Reality - vocational education applications

With my background in baking and patisserie, I have been a sceptic of virtual reality. Although visual input is important in learning baking, the whole baking process largely multi-sensory. Smell and feel are extremely important contributors to gauging various stages during baking. The real socio-materiality aspect about baking is tactile / textual. I often use the example of ‘being able to read the dough’ as it is mixed or handled. I encourage novice bakers to use their hands as in so doing, the feel the various physical changes cake batters or dough go through as they are mixed and processed.

However, VR is useful in many other trades. For example in construction, VR provides the ideal learning tool to learn socio-materiality aspects like spatial alignment and the ‘hidden’ utilities found in buildings (wiring, plumbing, heat / ventilation etc.). VR provides for access to parts of equipment or machinery which are usually difficult to get to e.g. in automotive trades. 

VR field trips to places difficult to get to (e.g. Mars) and VR games are also useful. Examples are more common in the schools as per this link and here.   Wired provided some higher education examples and hypergrid business looks into five ways VR could change education.

Hardware for VR is becoming affordable, examples are the OcculusVR goggles  (around the US$100 mark) and there is always the ‘maker’ option with Google cardboard which also requires a smart phone.

So as always, important to keep options open and to evaluate each opportunity to incorporate technology into education with the focus on learning. Does bringing VR in improve learning for the topic. If yes, is it a cost effective option, allowing for issues of ease of access to specialist equipment etc.

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