How virtual reality will revolutionise education

IT channel Expert’s sister publication recently spoke with HP’s VP for worldwide education, Gus Schmedlen, to find out how VR will be used in schools and how important subjects such as ICT and coding are.

Do you think educational bodies will embrace VR or similar tech?

We have seen a great adoption in a really cool community sprout up in 3D printing, and I think we are just at the beginning of a blended reality revolution in education, that allows for things that we can’t even think of today.

I think it is going to be a really cool couple of years, watching the virtual reality space.

How can people encourage kids to use their devices more for education?

By creating more compelling content on devices that students are used to. You have to make sure that the content delivered to them is academic. We also have to make the curriculum relevant to students’ lives, not teaching the way people taught in the 1900s, but teaching core content areas in a way that the students know why they are learning it.

How would you figure out the relevance?

There is a niche industry for personlised learning, which is all of the data created by individual students. It serves up interventions based on what the student has done in the past. That’s the personal level.

The next level is the cohort level, which is most useful for teachers. They can see aggregate statistics about their class, who’s ahead or behind, or if anyone is going too fast or too slow.

Then we can look at the school, which you then add in all the facilities. Looking at the budget, for example, and how the school is doing for its level.

Finally the system level, providing actionable data and intelligence to deliver relevant content but knowing what will work and what won’t.

In terms of pop culture relevance, what we have is a number of different companies and startups who are becoming much more adept to students and becoming more relevant to the youth market.

How important are subjects such as ICT and coding today compared to others like English or Maths?

ICT is essential as it now directly impacts every single industry, and it affects every single discipline within schools. You can’t learn state of the art science without learning ICT.

We think of ICT as a way to contextualise and make real literature, history and science.

In terms of coding, I can’t think of a better way to merge ICT with business or education, or a way to teach project based learning where students have to think critically, be flexible and adaptive, and go though the whole process or creating, analysing and synthesising a project.

We want to encourage this kind of learning, especially for girls.

Why is that?

We want all genders to be represented equally and we believe we are leaving a lot of talent on the table by not getting girls more involved.

We want everyone to learn the skills, and feel there is a great democratising force of education that technology can bring and drive outcomes for all students.

How do you think technology has benefited education in the past?

Students use technology outside of school so are used to that sort of modality of interacting. Bringing that into the school environment really makes education more engaging.

We are working with teachers from around the world on eliminating time spent on more menial tasks, and having them focus on why they became a teacher in the first place. We want to maximise the outcomes of one-to-one computing on a national or local level.

How do you think technology has been detrimental to education?

I think technology was seen as a panacea, unfortunately a lot of the countries measure the amount of devices they deploy to schools, which they shouldn’t do. They should measure outcome.

There have been three errors of education technology – the error of access, which we are now leaving, the error of learning which we are not getting in to and then the error of outcomes, which we are going into.

We make sure that there is return and active educational use of technology and we are not just deploying it as a gimmick.

Do you think teachers need to be better trained in how children use technology?

We not only need to train teachers to use tech, we need to empower them – they are part of us designing our programs as they are experts at teaching.

Not only will we enable them technically, but we will empower emotionally so they can use technology in a meaningful way.

Image source: Shutterstock

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