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You've probably heard how Virtual Reality (VR) is going to change everything: the way we work, the way we live, the way we play. Still, for every truly transformative technology, there are landfills of hoverboards, 3-D televisions, Segways, and MiniDiscs – the technological scrap it turns out we didn't need.
It's reasonable to approach VR with a degree of scepticism, but allow me to explain three ways in which VR can transform the way we learn, and why we, as psychologists, are so excited about it.
VR - Classroom - Aid - Learners - Lessons
VR has great potential as a classroom aid. We know learning is more effective when learners are actively engaged. Practical lessons that encourage interaction are more successful than those where content is passively absorbed. However, certain topics are difficult to ground in meaningful tasks that learners relate to.
From the enormity of the universe to the cellular complexity of living organisms, our egocentric senses haven't evolved to comprehend anything beyond the scale of ourselves. Through stereoscopic trickery and motion tracking, VR grounds counter-factual worlds in the plausible. For the first time, learners can step inside these environments and explore for themselves.
Researchers - Virtual - Plant - Cell - VR
Researchers are currently developing Virtual Plant Cell, the first interactive VR experience that's designed for use in the classroom. Learners explore the alien landscape of – well – a plant cell. Wading through swampy cytosol, ducking and weaving around cytoskeletal fibres, and uncovering the secrets of the plant's subcellular treasures: emerald green chloroplasts, where photosynthesis takes place, curious blobs of mitochondria, or a glimpse of DNA through a psychedelic nuclear pore.
The inner workings of the cell are grounded, allowing students to actively engage with the lesson's content through meaningful tasks. They may work in pairs to give each other tours, or create a photosynthetic production line. Using intuitive gestures, students grab carbon dioxide and water molecules from...
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