Week Fifteen: MA Project

Updated: Aug 10

Images: https://time.com/longform/inside-amazon-rain-forest-vr-app/

Virtual and Augmented Reality Towards the end of my conversation with Whitman, she mentioned an additional alternative to physically being in nature was to bring nature into the classroom via virtual and augmented reality. Whitman explained that virtual and augmented reality technology is already being uti- lised in some schools. Although this technology is costly and, as Whitman mentioned, a step removed from nature, studies have shown the positive impact made by virtual and augmented reality. Decades of research have also suggested participants treat virtual experiences as real ex- periences (Blascovich and Bailenson, 2011, as cited by Markowitz et al., 2018). There is some fascinating evidence of this, such as embodying someone of a minority race (stepping into an avatar of a minority race, for example) reduces levels of bias toward that race (Peck et al., 2013, as cited by Markowitz et al. 2018). However, along with cost, early work by Bricken (1991) (ascited by Markowitz et al. 2018) suggests other challenges associated with virtual reality. One is usability (the technology or experiences in virtual reality can be unintuitive); second, fear (be- ing placed in a fully immersive space can be daunting), especially for young children. Finally, the novelty of a virtual experience might also undermine virtual reality’s effectiveness, as most people do not currently own immersive virtual reality hardware or have limited experience with the technology (Markowitz et al., 2018). It can also be argued that virtual and augmented reality would leave nothing for the child’s imagination to be exercised, an essential asset as we con- tinue to encourage and reimagine a new, sustainable world. The Steiner approach also suggests plastic toys, electronic media and educational games are avoided to ensure that the impressions made on the child are natural, organic forms. However, the essence of virtual and augmented reality is to create an immersive experience accessible to a setting or situation that might not otherwise be able to have that experience.

Image: https://news.educ.cam.ac.uk/pre-school-play-lowers-risk-mental-health

Do you think students that are more actively involved in their learning (e.g. through games/play) retain new knowledge quicker and more effectively?

Firstly, I think gamification is an effective learning strategy compared to "traditional" instruction (reading facts or being lectured to), particularly if the game is:

  • Student-centered

  • Multisensory (has visual, auditory and kinesthetic components)

  • Contextually relevant (e.g. animal pieces/flashcards when playing a game about animals)

  • "Interleaved" learning objectives with practical relevance (e.g. if students are learning about fruits, and learning to do simple addition/subtraction then a game that's focused on buying fruit and simulating a market)

Result-focused games don't necessarily appeal to students who aren't competitive. The best games are ones where playing the game itself is the fun part. I think this helps students to stay focused on the objective of the game (playing to learn) rather than the result.

I don't think it necessarily has to be a "game". Role-plays, surveys, storyboards, etc. are all just as effective, if not more effective, than a game. I guess it depends on the game in question and what works for the student.

Ultimately, I think they are very helpful for engagement and motivation, and should be part of every teacher's repertoire of teaching strategies. However, they should be used with some moderation.

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