Tola Sylvan ’17
Our team is lucky to get hands-on experience developing virtual reality content. While our main goal is to create an effective educational VR experience, the production journey itself is also a major learning opportunity for us. Through conceptualizing and building the Gaspee experience, we have the chance to become very familiar with a significant historical event, get to know Providence and New England on a closer level, delve into the creative process and learn how to use novel technology. Being tasked with creating engaging educational content is almost a guarantee that we’ll master the material itself (while also strengthening creativity and production-centered knowledge). Is it possible that students everywhere could benefit from actually creating content in VR, instead of just being consumers of educational experiences?
Encouraging creativity and production is a common teaching method – when students are asked to create a project, write an essay, or present on a subject, they are essentially asked to engage with academic material in a hands-on way and produce new educational content based on the original material. This process challenges their understanding of the material and encourages critical thinking and creativity. As the saying goes, “The best way to learn is to teach”… or create teaching material.
The educational benefits of creative production environments have already been observed in other technology, like video games. An EdSurge article describes the excitement surrounding the possibility of educators leading classes in Second Life, a virtual online world. That excitement never really caught on, but more success has been seen in video games. The desktop game Minecraft, for example, allows players to easily build virtual worlds, and provides a platform for students and teachers to interact and share information. The article suggests that VR needs this ‘Minecraft Effect’ – an emphasis on easy content production that will help the technology catch on for both students and educators.
VR applications have the potential to maximize learning not only through students experiencing ‘lessons,’ but also through providing students with a platform to produce academic and creative work. VR could also provide a great space for hosting classrooms, allowing multimedia content to be shared and supporting conversations between students and teachers.
The ability to deliver great content experiences through VR promises to revolutionize education. But is passive consumption of VR the ideal scenario for students of the future? Active, creative assignments have been touted for their capacity to facilitate mastery of a subject, and the benefit of creativity and production can be harnessed with VR, too. Students could build 3D paintings of the solar system, model their own physics problems, or produce immersive and meaningful films on a topic of interest- the possibilities are endless. Research shows that the consumption of educational VR leads to great student outcomes, but what about content creation?