Virtual & Augmented Reality – Are They Really Worth the Hype?

Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) are slowly making their way into schools.  Depending on the quality of the needed device a VR headset can be a few dollars (i.e. cardboard cutout that uses your smartphone) or a very expensive one costing hundreds of dollars per unit.  AR headsets can be just as expensive.


I’m admittedly a bit cautious when new tech is touted as the next ‘best thing’ for education.  Are these headsets just a gimmick with lots of fun entertainment value or are they really a way for students to actually go deeper with their learning?

Like most everything, I suppose it depends on how and why you use them.

There is an article in EduTopia (Will Virtual Reality Drive Deeper Learning?)  that addresses this point quite well.  It asserts that the use of both the VR and AR tech needs to be focused on providing an experience for students that otherwise would not be possible.  A simple idea … but also a critical lens to use when considering any technology’s applicability in our classrooms.

Virtual Reality (VR) is “a computer generated scenario that simulates experience through our senses and perception”.  By using headsets, VR literally take us to another place that would not be possible without it.

VR Experience – A Blood Cell Perspective

Augmented Reality (AR) is “an interactive experience of the real world environment with computer generated images, sounds and smells”.  It blends your real world perception with augmented computerized images layered on top.

AR Experience – My Very Hungry Caterpillar

To date, we have only just scratched the surface of integrating VR and AR technology into our teaching.  However, as they slowly make their way into our schools we will likely need to be a bit patient as teachers learn how to determine the most effective way to add them to their ‘Teaching Tool Box’.

Here are some ideas that I thought might be really neat ways to experience something with VR and AR — I tried to think along subject-area paths but the ideas can easily be cross-curricular in nature:

  • Math – experience the thrill of riding a roller coaster that follows the actual curves of various algebraic functions.  You change the X and Y variables as you ride.
  • Music – play a concerto while being conducted by Mozart or Beethoven.
  • Drafting – visualize a 3D representation of a futuristic car that you create.  Climb inside and take it for a spin.
  • History – visit the epic Battle of Vimy Ridge in WWI where many say our country came of age.
  • Science – take your whole class scuba diving through a coral reef in Australia.

There are actually a fair number of resources currently on-line that you can explore.  Here are two sites worth visiting:

So, yes, I think VR and AR can be the real deal.  But, at the end of the day when we talk about better learning it should never be about the technology.

Technology isn’t the improved learning objective. 

However, technology CAN be part of the highway that we use to get us there.

2 thoughts on “Virtual & Augmented Reality – Are They Really Worth the Hype?

  1. Dave,
    Once again, enjoyed reading your blog and have shared with my ECE families.
    Technology is definitely part of the highway.


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