Guys are predicting that 2016 will be the start year when virtual reality (VR) becomes a commercially affordable reality. Processing power, graphics capability and technology costs have converged to allow high-quality virtual reality to be accessible to consumers.
For me, even just tested a VR headset once, although the image was static and some of the graphics were far from perfect – the experience was mesmerizing. Being able to turn and tilt your head to see an entire virtual landscape is immersive and compelling. You feel as though you have been placed into a new fantastic world.
People can only imagine how this will transform computer gaming with interactive characters and brilliant graphics.
Still I am interested in a very different application. But I don’t know enough about the subject to understand the feasibility and potential obstacles.
Could we use virtual reality to let disadvantaged children sit in the classrooms of the very best teachers? Recent reports have highlighted shortages of teachers in many areas and that is having an impact on students.
Imagine the scenario:
A group of students turn up for a mathematics class at school and their usual teacher is not available – for whatever reason. A temporary teacher is there but does not know the students, their learning styles or progress in the subject. She knows that they were set to explore Pythagoras’ Theorem today, but it has been years since she taught it, as she acts as a temporary supply teacher across multiple schools covering different year groups. Already she is worried that the students are not focused and might distract each other during the lesson – as a professional she can already sense the early warning signs.
To instead of trying to teach the lesson – imagine if she could give each student a virtual reality headset that allows them to sit in the front row of the country’s best teacher in this subject? The students would be able to play the lesson in short sections, pausing and repeating any parts they wanted then stopping regularly to ask questions from the supply teacher, make notes or do test exercises. The supply teacher could focus on providing individual support to students that need it. The students would be listening, watching and being in the same virtual class room as a teacher who is passionate, articulate and inspiring.
Until recently the technology would have been far too expensive – maybe that’s changing?
It would be great if every student had the best teachers teaching them all the time – there would be no need for this idea. Sadly, teacher shortages – especially in schools in more socially challenged areas – are a problem we have not solved.
Is it any different from watching videos? I think the immersive VR experience changes things. Watching a video clip is ‘behind the screen’ – using VR you are ‘in the room’. I saw a clip recently of medical students using affordable VR headsets to be in the operating theatre with an expert surgeon as he conducted an operation in real time. The teaching benefit is huge.
Today you can already find many thousands of maths lessons freely available online. But finding one that is high quality and matches the specific curriculum a student is working on is not easy. Students that lack motivation in the classroom may not have the motivation to search for relevant and useful online clips in their own free time. Providing access in the classroom environment is vital – removing distractions is helpful.
Of course you could add graphics and animations and bring the lesson to life but that would all add to the cost. Simply filming great teachers giving great lessons in their normal classroom environment should keep production and post-production costs down. If we could get most of the potential benefits for 20% of the potential cost, then it could be more sustainable. In time, lessons could be enhanced and we could create truly interactive learning experiences.
Questions: Would teachers think this concept has merit? I don’t know, but I will be asking those that I know. Who would own, curate and maintain the bank of VR lessons? Would it be worth a trial?
Are there other benefits or obstacles?
Famous film maker Chris Milk described the potential of Virtual Reality on his 2015 TED Talk:
“And that's where I think we just start to scratch the surface of the true power of virtual reality. It's not a video game peripheral. It connects humans to other humans in a profound way that I've never seen before in any other form of media. And it can change people's perception of each other. And that's how I think virtual reality has the potential to actually change the world.”
Will you enjoy the VR in CCTV Surveillance area?