Saturday, April 7, 2012

Virtual conclusion

Now that I've really looked at both sides of virtual realities, my thoughts have not changed. Due to my research, I've become a little more sensitive and understanding to those that disagree with the use of virtual environments. However, I still believe that virtual realities can be great tools for education. Being that I'm an educator in this "digital era" and teach 21st Century Learners, it is my job to be open to using tools such as virtual realities. There are so many positive reasons to use them. They provide students with motivation to learn.

Since I teach middle school students, I get to see the intrinsic attitude everyday! My students are only interested in things that will affect them. Now, being that I'm a science teacher, I feel my job is a little easier because I have the opportunity to provide so many hands on experiences and teach topics like the human body. So, my students do seem to stay interested and actively engaged. However, I still have students that are not interested in science. As a way to keep ALL my students actively engaged, I change it up. I provide real life experiences through dissections and various labs and activities. But, I also bring in the technological component as well. By bringing in iPads and virtual simulations such as Edheads, I've been able to keep my least motivated student interested. My colleague that teaches social studies has an even more difficult time motivated our students and keeping them interested in things such as the history of Egypt. So, she also looks to technology to keep our students interested. Virtual realities such as Quest Atlantis is a perfect example! The key to being a good teacher is to motivate and engage your students. Virtual realities can provide this ability.

I still believe that there has to be a balance. Any good teacher knows that you can't run your class the same way everyday. If you do, your students will be bored. When students are bored, they don't stay engaged. If they don't stay engaged, they don't learn! So, the key is to differentiate and provide your students with a little of everything: hands on experiences, real world examples, traditional lesson, physical activities, and technological components. Virtual realities are great tools, but they can be the opposite if not used in the right context. It is extremely important to the teacher to instill the educational aspect. The best way to do this is to provide the students with a purpose to the virtual environment. Don't just let them "play" but provide expectations and assessments. Really take the time to evaluate the VR and make sure it provides you with that educational purpose. If it doesn't, then keep looking, there are other VR options out there!

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