By Pam Loft
Education is really learning to interact with the world around us and technology can make learning fun as well as safer.
The virtual reality opens up opportunities for “on the job” training without the hazards of real accidents occurring during the process. This easily brings to mind cockpit simulators for pilot training, virtual surgery and virtual military experiences, however many other jobs have a serious learning curve that could benefit from a virtual training experience. Requests for more experience before awarding a license for driving a car, truck, or motorcycle are regularly mentioned on the news when reporting an accident involving a very young or novice driver. Virtual reality could provide a safe way to develop driving skills as well as refine and test existing skills in drivers of any age.
Safety training is an essential part of most job sites. It may consist of lectures, booklets, posters, but add a virtual trip through the job site dealing with the hazards that are found and applying the lessons learned would reinforce the safety instruction.
Many individuals benefit from patient repetition of routines to help learn or relearn common activities. A controlled environment allows the opportunity of continual repetition and has been shown to help many children. Children with autism, who tend to interact well with computer programs, were given a virtual reality game in which a playmate and a dog guided them through learning how to navigate streets and crossing at lights etc. and several of the children demonstrated an encouraging amount of skill transfer to the real world.
It would seem that this type of programming would lend itself to rehab situations that require similar patient repetition of once known but lost basic skills. So much is open for discovery in this area.
There are several ways that technology can change the educational process. It opens up opportunities for groups to work together working on virtual projects. With the correct programming, virtual reality will allow the student to “be” a historian or an archaeologist without leaving the classroom. Game-based learning meets the students at their interest level and pulls them into more intellectual pursuits. Part of the game approach gives rewards success while ignoring failures thus encouraging taking risks and trying something new. Virtual reality is an open field for imagination and could be a great avenue for students to create and learn.
“The world of reality has its limits; the world of imagination is boundless,” said Jan-Jacques Rousseau, speaking in the 18th century.
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