What is Virtual Reality and how can it Revolutionize Rwanda’s Education System in 2020.
Virtual Reality(V.R) can be defined as a computer-generated simulation of a three-dimensional image or atmosphere which will be interacted using special equipment, like a helmet with a screen within or gloves fitted with sensors.”.It is in this sense that this technology has been deployed in education particularly in science subjects like physics, biology and chemistry to simulate real world learning and offer virtual experiences for example students don’t need to physically visit a laboratory but access in in a virtual environment. Subjects like history, geography and art are alternative subjects that are flipped to a fascinating format of teaching through the application of Virtual reality. Vr has the flexibility to obviously shift and provides better and interactive approach that traditional education ways can’t particularly handle since traditional methodologies are limited by complexities of how a subject is.
Education especially in Rwanda has come this far. From French as a language of communication to English to introduction of free education for all and lastly to introduction of one laptops per child. We are in the generation where education is accessible and free in the lower education but despite the education being free and accessible to primary and some secondary schools, the way students learn is a bit old fashioned. Students go to class and take notes then do exams later,The system is mostly favoring a student with good memory.That aside, the classes are boring since the teacher is regarded as the superior in the room. But with virtual reality, students learn in their way, explore what they can not explore in real life for cheap. Students get immersed into the subject compared to a teacher infront of a class.
The experience provides the material for the construction of a mental model of the concept, which in turn leads to the foundation of knowledge (Duffy & Jonassen, 1992). Virtual reality, in that case, has proven itself to have the ability that fully engages students in a class compared to the traditional education model.
We can divide the virtual reality technology into 3 categories which are Cave Automatic Virtual Environment(CAVE), Head Mounted Display (HMD) and Augmented reality(AR)
CAVE), where the person is in a room where all the walls, as well as the floor, are projection screens or any type of display which can be a monitor then the person puts on the 3d glasses and floats around the virtual space.CAVE.Though CAVE is advanced, but it’s still expensive to afford and it’s very hard to move from one place to another and this is why it can’t be used in an education environment. CAVE technology The first CAVE was invented by Carolina Cruz-Neira, Daniel J. Sandin, and Thomas A. DeFanti at the University of Illinois, Chicago Electronic Visualization Laboratory in 1992.
Head-mounted Display(HMD) is often used with headphones, can easily produce the visceral feeling of actually being in the simulated world as suggested by Bruner (1961)For virtual reality to be so immersive and give the user the best experience,all the body senses must be used and virtual reality tries as much as it can to let the user emulate these senses to give as feeling of realism. The most common senses are sight, hearing and touch as Virtual reality develops we shall be able to smell things in VR environment. particular, according to Classen “Sight is held to be the most important of the senses and the sense most closely allied with reason” ( (Duffy & Jonassen, 1992).
In the past, Virtual reality technologies such as the CAVE were only accessible to governments and higher richer organizations and using modern day VR in the past was for the elites and governments because of how much the costed. The technology had not developed as it is right now. Early users suffered most from so many issues that included motion sickness, blur lens and heavy VR. Now, the commercial product Oculus Rift offers a good virtual simulation at an accessible price while other affordable products are under investigation making the use of such systems more feasible also in the fields of education and medical training. The technology is now widespread, commercial and cheap that before.
Application of VR in Schools
When you look at how science subjects have been previously taught in Rwanda, we clearly see that something was wrong from the syllabus, how it was taught, the resources and inexperienced science teachers. I remember when it was a Biology class and the Respiratory system was the chapter, We came to class, the teacher gave us notes about the chapter and he usually called that one kid who was good at drawing to draw respiratory organs on the blackboard. That is how we learnt the Heart, the brain and the digestive system. This is where Virtual reality comes in to change and revolutionize. Virtual reality steps in and instead of seeing things drawn on the board, you actually interact with the subject yourself. If its the heart, you have the chance to virtually move into the heart, see everything yourself, look at every detail as if you’re in the real heart yourself. The good thing about virtual reality is that it tricks your brain to think that things are real and happening but actually not, its a 3d simulation.
Speaking of simulations, VR Simulators are also being used in other fields of transport. For example, driving simulators can be used to train people to drive cars and to handle specific driving conditions including heavy rain and traffic. These simulators are used for example by the automobile brands like Benz and BMW to have a feeling of the final product, a feeling from the end user is simulated.Why can’t this technology used by driving schools in Rwanda to offer virtual driving classes instead of burning fuel and risking accidents?
Similar to car simulators, Virtual reality is not yet limited. Virtual reality has a very big role to play in the health sector especially in operation room with surgeons.The current state of junior nurses,midwives and inexperienced surgeons is that they learn from patients. A patients life is sacrificed so that these people learn and gain experiences.Guess what happens to a patient when a nurse who didn’t read her notes is in charge?There are so many risks involved and virtual reality has a very big role to play and save patient’s lives and also give more knowledge to nurses and surgeons. Here is how it works.A virtual operation room is created and a virtual patient is also designed and everything is designed with 100% accuracy as it would be in real life.The operation procedures are also emulated so close to realism so the surgeons can first do so many trials in a virtual operation room with a virtual patient,once they pass, they must have gained enough experience to operate a real world patient, if they fail in a virtual operation room, they’re definitely going to mess up in a real operation. So this method is cheap and effective.
It is upon us to either see the potential in the technology or see it as a fail in the education space. As of right now, there is no education tool that fully immerse and engage students like Virtual reality can do. I can not explain everything in a single text blog, a company, institution or individual you need to try out the technology. Try out one of the best Vr headsets of 2020 https://www.vive.com/eu/product/vive-pro/
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