Augmented and Virtual Reality in School

Robert Thorn

Head of Academy, English International School of Bratislava

I was recently asked what I thought about the use of augmented and virtual reality in school. My immediate response is that any and all learning opportunities should be welcomed and for young people to experience new technology, it is essential for them to project and build in these possibilities into the toolboxes of their imaginations while young. I did see and work on some projects when AR/VR products first began to appear for use in schools. The possibilities they brought to the classroom were amazing – being able to simulate situations that young people would not normally be able to experience; being able to see locations as they had been; stimulating their senses far better than the use of the animations and simulated labs we previously used, and so on.

Unfortunately, as I have, in recent years, been working in schools that needed to spend their financial resources in developing elsewhere, I am not in the position to discuss details or which product compares to another. However, the question did remind me of the warning often heard before using other innovations in education: ‘If the technology is being used to replicate what you already do in your teaching then you’re not using it well.’ So, two thoughts came to my mind:

  • If your learners and teachers are lucky enough to have the chance to use AR/VR, have they thought through in what ways it can be used to enhance learning and, more importantly, develop the attributes (habits, skills, dispositions) of learners?
  • If you don’t have the opportunity yet to use AR/VR in your school what attributes would your young people need to have well-developed in order to be able to make the most of it when they do eventually encounter this technology?

To answer this, consider the following:

How will you use AR/VR (or any other tool) to provide your learners with the opportunity to develop: different ways of thinking; care, compassion, empathy and perseverance; where are the opportunities to improve their ability to notice, be curious, develop their powers of inquiry, reflection, to test out their open-mindedness and define more clearly the landscape of their values; how will it enable your young people to develop their belief in themselves – that they too could not only master such technology but one day be part of creating and extending it? How will this technology help them become collaborative, independent, communicative learners who can engage and innovate with this technology rather than simply be in awe of it or be remote from it?

And, if you don’t have access to such technology yet, what are you currently doing to create opportunities for your learners to develop the attributes mentioned above? There is an approach we can take to any curriculum you currently use that enhances the opportunity to develop learner attributes as well as fulfilling the needs of the said curriculum. I call this a ‘learner-development-centred approach’ and, if you want to know more about that, then I am happy to explain for sure.

Robert Thorn

Head of Academy, English International School of Bratislava