I recently spent two hours on a field trip with a group of Grade 5 students at a Virtual Reality arcade. I have participated in a couple of workshops on “VR”, and I have worked with some of my students on Augmented Reality projects. However, what I just experienced was a first-hand lesson in the technological sophistication of this generation of students. I regularly see these students ably using their Chromebooks to enhance their learning, and I am always impressed by the ease with which they use technology, ranging from Google Apps to Lego Robotics. One of the key reasons why we are increasingly employing educational technology is to meet the students in their world, so their learning will be relevant to their lives. What I saw, as so many of them easily and intuitively navigated complex devices and hardware, was the extent to which they are truly comfortable operating in virtual spaces.
While many of the activities were game-like, their educational value not readily apparent, there were also athletic experiences, and one in which the user performed the various tasks associated with running a restaurant. These “job simulator” games, as they become increasingly life-like, are being used in fields such as emergency first response and surgery in which practice on real subjects can be dangerous. Though the true utility of Virtual Reality in elementary education has not yet been imagined, especially at the current costs of good devices, what it gave me today was a new perspective on how our students interact with technology, educational or otherwise. Comparing today’s experience to a visit to an arcade in my youth, I was further reminded of the almost incomprehensible technological advances of the last few decades. Our students truly live, and learn, in a world that is profoundly different from that which was experienced by their parents and teachers. If our teaching and their learning does not reflect these changes, then we are not preparing them for success in their ever-changing world. At Rowntree Montessori Schools, as an Award-Winning private school, we are always looking to further enhance each child’s learning experience, and field trips and workshops continue to add an important learning element in the curriculum.