Education, Turbocharged By Technology

Kavita Mehta, Founder & CEO, Caymus Technology Ventures | Thursday, 27 February 2020, 11:42 IST

Kavita Mehta, Founder & CEO, Caymus Technology VenturesAs education morphs and lifelong learning becomes a mantra, formats and modes of delivery must also evolve. While online courses, videos, podcasts and e-books are here to stay, what new technologies are being developed and deployed to engage learners of different ilk?

The near instant gratification that comes from 3D printing appeals to digital natives who are unaccustomed to waiting for outcomes or outputs. By using computer aided design software such as TinkerCAD or FreeCAD to design a new product and then printing the designs using 3D printers, a student gets nearly real-time feedback on her design, blueprints and ideas. Many schools use 3D printing labs to combine coursework in the sciences, design and business to help students visualize possibilities for future careers – biosciences entrepreneur to medical component designer to costume design for extreme temperatures.

Biometrics, while typically associated with security and CIA-level clearances, can help teachers understand how students consume information, whether text in books or images on a screen. Once a student’s visual patterns are mapped, a teacher can adapt learning materials to appeal to his preferred style for information absorption and retention.

Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) present the most edgy and mind-bending opportunities to engage learners where they are most comfortable. Before going into details, let’s understand what we are talking about, using the Franklin Institute’s definition of both terms: 

  • Virtual Reality (VR) implies a complete immersion experience that shuts out the physical world. Using VR devices such as HTC Vive, Oculus Rift or Google Cardboard, users can be transported into a number of real-world and imagined environments such as the middle of a squawking penguin colony or even the back of a dragon.
  • Augmented Reality (AR) adds digital elements to a live view often by using the camera on a smartphone. Examples of AR experiences include Snapchat lenses and the game Pokemon Go. 

Uses for AR/VR are as extensive as the imaginations of school-going students. Below I outline just some of the possibilities that are in practice today:

Language Acquisition

VR/AR can be used to simulate language immersion scenarios, thereby allowing auditory and social learners to hear and practice speaking a language they are acquiring. VR/AR can be used to connect the learner with people from all over the world to practice language skills while playing games and interacting with other students in the virtual world.

To improve distance or online learning, virtual chat spaces created by applications like ‘VRChat’ enable students to project themselves in a virtual classroom. This allows visual and auditory learners to pick up new subjects through audio-visual aids while the online tutor interacts and teaches the students. Social learning is facilitated through interactions between the teacher and students in the virtual classroom.

Field Trips

Virtual field trips are a terrific example of VR/AR put into practice to create exposure. The Google expedition app is used for taking students on virtual field trips to destinations as far flung as outer space, oceanic depths, mountain tops and historical sites around the world. This type of exposure is especially valuable to visual learners who struggle to put words into context when reading about abstract places that are difficult or nearly impossible to actually visit. Additionally, students with a keen interest in a particular location is able to consider it from different angles and vantage points using a VR headset.

Games

The immersive 360º experience offered by VR/AR makes it especially useful for visual and kinesthetic learners. When coupled with games and a bit of competition, it is invaluable to impart lessons. For example, learning geometry becomes much easier when a student is able to visualize geometric projects in 3D. The student can also move and align geometric figures based on angles and properties, thereby activating tactile receptors to improve learning.

Skill Building

When it comes time to impart practical skills, for kinesthetic learners, nothing beats hands on experiences. And short of going to an automotive factory or coffee shop, VR offers an efficient, safe and scalable ways to build skills. For example, a student may want to learn how to be a barista to prepare for a summer job at Starbucks. Using a VR headset, she can train faster and perfect her art before even stepping foot into the store.

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