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The Current State of VR Education APPs

· virtual reality,VREdu,EdTech

I began working as a teacher in 2010 in inner city London - roughly three months before the first iPad was released. Within 12 months, there were six in my classroom, and I began exploring how they could best be used to support the curriculum.

My first step was to search the APP store using subject-specific search terms: science, maths, literacy... There may have even been an education category to choose from, which I would scroll through and download anything that resembled a learning tool.

A lot of these educational APPs were digital rote learning tools. The good ones were local or online quizzes with a basic level of gamification. At first sight, these APPs looked good. I assumed students would be more engaged and I could test knowledge in a different way from how I had been doing it in the past. Although the iPad was a fascinating new learning tool, I quickly realised it wasn't going to change education in a significant way.

A tool originally funded by the CIA was delivering amazing learning experiences.

From my observations, the most widely used and effective learning APP on the iPad at the time was Google Earth. A tool originally funded by the CIA was delivering amazing learning experiences. There were obvious learning opportunities in geography lessons and perhaps less obvious opportunities for language learning. The quality of language that can be produced by students during well-designed activities that use Google Earth is astonishing. We have the CIA to thank for all this.

The VR Education releases we see today remind me of this time. We have access to high production value VR Education experiences by "industry leaders" such as Unimeriv and Immersiv VR Education. But, these experiences can only realistically be used for a handful of lessons in a single academic year. They focus on the way blood moves through the body, or how dendrites behave in the brain. But in the end, although these concepts are suitable for learning in VR, due to their somewhat abstract nature, they are not the VR Education APPs schools, and students need.

To be clear, I think it's great that these companies are building VR Education experiences, it’s just that the experiences are not quite up to scratch. We need to wait for the VR versions of Kahoot, SeeSaw and Popplet to appear before educators can get excited about how VR Education can enhance learning. Luckily, we already have Earth VR.

What VR Education needs is not a killer app. It requires teachers who can use VR as a tool to provide a killer education. One which includes artificial intelligence, flexibility, creativity, collaboration and provides student agency.

APPs that meet some of these criteria are being built now. We know of some apps that are on the right path and others that will play the role of the necessary failure.

In the end, VR Education will be the final education. But one that will take decades to evolve and mature.

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