Virtual Reality Learning Environments

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Virtual Reality Learning Environments: Potentials and Challenges Computer graphics technology enables us to create a remarkable variety of digital images and displays that, given the right conditions, effectively enrich education [Clark 1983]. Real-time computer graphics are an essential component of the multi-sensory environment of Virtual Reality (VR). This article addresses the unique characteristics of emerging VR technology and the potential of virtual worlds as learning environments. I will describe several key attributes of VR environments and discuss them in relationship to educational theory and pedagogical practice. I will then identify three challenges that must be met before VR can be integrated into educational settings: cost, usability, and fear of the technology. The practical potential of VR is still being explored. Of the number of application areas that suggest themselves, education is clearly worth immediate investigation. VR was devised to enable people to deal with information more easily, and it has been successfully developed to facilitate learning and task performance for over 20 years in the U.S. Air Force [Furness 1978]. Public education and training applications are a natural extension of this work. The national mandate for educational improvement is based on increasingly grim statistics. Between 25%-30% of our children donít graduate from high school, and of those who do, at least 700,000 are functionally illiterate. Our students rank at the bottom of 19 industrial nations in reading, writing, and arithmetic. ìOne thing is for certain: the information revolution is changing our lives, and we need to prepare ourselves to cope with its promise and potential.î [Gore 1991] How might VR help? Virtual Reality as a Learning Environment Using a head-mounted audio-visual display, 6-D position sensors, and tactile interface devices, we can inhabit computer-generated environments. We can see, hear and touch virtual objects. We can create, modify and manipulate them in much the same way we do physical objects, but without those pesky real-world limitations. VR is not only virtual: we can meet real people in virtual worlds, we can tele-exist in real places all over the world and beyond, and we can superimpose virtual displays onto the physical world. VR offers teachers and students unique experiences that are consistent with ... ... middle of paper ... ... Research, Spring 1983 Jonassen, D.H. Objectivism vs. Constructivism: Do We Need a New Philosophical Paradigm? University of Colorado (unpublished) Kohlberg, L. Early Education: A cognitive-Developmental View. Child Development, 1968 Vol. 39, pp.1013-1062 Laurel, B. The Art of Human-Computer Interface Design. Addison-Wesley, 1990 pp. 481-482 Leonard, G.B. Education and Ecstasy. New York: Dell 1968 Papert, S. Mindstorms. New York: Basic Books 1980 Perelman, L.J. A New Learning Enterprise. Business Week, Dec. 10, 1990 Rogers, C. Freedom to Learn. Columbus, Ohio: Charles E. Merrill, 1969 Silberman, C. Crisis in the Classroom. New York: Random House, 1970 Sturman, D.J., Zeltzer, D., Piper, S. Hands-on Interaction with Virtual Environments. Proceedings ACM SIGGRAPH Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology, Williamsburg, VA: Nov. 1989, pp. 19-24 Vygotsky, L. Mind in Society: The Development of Higher Psychological Processes. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1978 Zeltzer, D. Virtual Environments: Where Are We Going? Proceedings 12th International IDATE (Institut de líAudiovisuel Telecommunications en Europe) Conference, Nov. 1990, Montpellier, France
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