Virtual and augmented realities in empowering learning


G Balasubramaniam
Editor-in-Chief, The Progressive School, New Delhi

The debate whether technologies should be brought into the corridors of the classroom is already over. The role of technologies as an empowering tool in furthering learning has been widely acknowledged to a differing degree of their intervention, depending upon the social and the personal psyche of the teachers in the classroom and their geographical locations.

G BalasubramaniamFrom a simple screen-based, desktop supported learning tool, several generations of technologies have evolved which provide a real-time experience to the learner in dealing with the concepts, thus enabling experiential learning. At present, we are in a world gearing up at an unimaginable speed with providing virtual and augmented reality support to the classrooms. Like any other technologies, their costs are also bound to come down soon with an increasing volume of consumption.

I had several times addressed a question to my own self whether we can survive without these technologies. Though one can find several statements to support this perception, I am presently convinced that these technologies are likely to transport learning to an entirely different universe of understanding and comprehension. The more we negotiate on its relevance, the more we delay in its implementation – possibly we will be doing an increasing injustice to the future learners.

Without making any over-statement, let me put across the points for advocacy:

1. Content clarity – The visual inputs and the 3D facilitation do give a holistic view in putting across the content to the clients with extreme clarity, giving no scope for any ambiguity that could usually result from a simple verbal communication. It does open the visual domain of the content and couple with an audio interpretation and scope for hands on manipulation, the content stands clarified without any misgiving.

2. Pedagogical clarity– Imagining a three-dimensional view of many inputs of learning on a single dimension presentation often times caused confusion. Sometimes it also resulted in misinterpretation of the communication and the concepts. The gap between the teaching and learning depended largely on the competency levels of the teachers or the learnability of the students. With the technology in place, it has become easy to put on table or on the screen, such abstract concepts which would not have otherwise been possible to comprehend.

3. Learnability– The opportunities for effective and productive learning along with experience and exploration could be triggered using these virtual and augmented realities. Further this also meets the challenges of differentiated learners and the learning styles in a classroom. With increased ‘learnability’, it also impacts quality of learning and its depth.

4. Standardizing learning– With these tools in place in a classroom, there is adequate scope for standardizing learning in a classroom situation by facilitating reach for the content to all, both individually and collectively. Many concepts of Science, nature, Mathematics or Social Sciences can be illustrated with ease and insight. Concepts, which were left to imagination, can be supported through illustrative pictorial representations.

5. The “Aha” Experience: Many of the virtual or augmented reality inputs do provide the “Aha” experience to the young learners. Learners are transported to an “imaginary world”, looking and experiencing things in a concrete manner which were so far at the abstract level. Experiences which would otherwise have been ethereal, when reduced to cognizable visual experiences, constructs of incomprehensible situations as “live experiences” transport the learner to a ‘dream land’ and thus providing opportunities for experiencing a set of fantasies as real-time learning experiences.

The emergence of Virtual and Augmented reality experiences is likely to re-engineer the classroom experiences. Teachers would be required to reconstruct learning in more a theatre format as compared to a uni-directional model as existent now. Experiences of such nature are likely to create more questions in classrooms, which could be challenging to the teachers yet triggering curiosity in learning. The technology could walk into the classrooms soon without knocking the doors of the traditional classrooms. Let us keep a vigil!

G.Balasubramanian, Editor-in-chief of The Progressive School Magazine is a leading educator in the field of school education, curriculum designer, author, HR trainer and educational administrator. Widely traveled, he has authored several books for schools, educational administrators and is a premier teacher-trainer both across the country and abroad. He has authored – Mindscaping Education, Case Studies in Classrooms, Quality Spectrum – A school’s bandwidth and Safety in Schools – Issues & concerns.