It seems inevitable that education will be one sector reshaped in coming years by technological innovation.
Virtual reality headsets, which allow viewers to—by simply turning their heads—watch 360-degree films, were once prohibitively expensive for widespread use. Now, Google Cardboard headsets are a mere $15, and can turn any smartphone into a virtual reality viewer.
The educational potential of VR is just beginning to emerge. At a gaming/new media conference I attended last week, I had the chance to play Mars2030, a virtual reality computer game being developed by Fusion in partnership with NASA (!!) and MIT. The game lets players explore the surface of Mars—using data collected from years of Mars surface architectural studies and the actual operational and hardware concepts under study in NASA and MIT labs right now.
One new venture that seems especially interesting is GoogleExpeditions, an educational virtual reality program in its early stages, where Google engineers work with teachers to develop virtual reality “field trips” based on course curriculums. As of last fall, Google had created about a hundred virtual trips, with destinations such as the Great Wall of China, Yosemite National Park, and the Italian city, Verona (where “Romeo and Juliet” is set!). I think my favorite description of a VR field trip is the “Great Recession Tour” of Manhattan. Created by a high school economics teacher hoping to give his students a stronger sense of the stakes of competent fiscal policy, the trip takes students to the former headquarters of Lehman Brothers and the offices of Goldman Sachs and the federal regulators involved in 2007/8’s financial crisis.
As technology becomes increasingly affordable, it will be interesting to watch how technology in the classroom continues to evolve over the next decade!
Be sure to check out the video below to learn more about Expeditions.