Mix it, baby!
Some didactic considerations on virtual reality

Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are relatively easy to distinguish conceptually: AR represents an augmentation of reality, while VR exchanges the real environment for a virtual one. The difference is also apparent: technically, VR typically operates with a head-mounted display (HMD), an opaque pair of glasses. Despite these differences, our workshops argue, VR and AR are didactically inseparable.

The image of the kaleidoscope combined everything for us didactically: a kaleidoscope shows a colorful hodgepodge, a mix of different fragments. A kaleidoscope with its mirror walls is furthermore an optical apparatus. Like VR, its illusory magic is created by visual immersion. And last but not least, there is the component of activity: By rotating the kaleidoscope, the inner components reassemble themselves.

Fig. 1: Kaleidoscope of Immersive Learning von Maximilian Stoller/Learning Beyond Reality

This text unfolds the Kaleidoscope of Immersive Learning. Starting with the question “What is VR?”, it examines the extent to which AR and VR in particular could offer and demand a (pedagogical) mixture.

What is virtual reality? Where is VR situated?
When computer scientist Paul Milgram introduced his Reality-Virtuality Continuum in 1994, he presented the distinction between augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) as a gradual distinction. According to this, AR and VR are sandwiched between the poles of ‘reality’ and ‘virtuality’ and belong to the same family. Milgram called his intermediate zone “Mixed Reality”. VR is located between augmented virtuality and virtual environment.

Fig. 2: Milgram & Kishino (1994) adapted from Jonathan Scheinmann.

In terms of technical equipment, VR requires hardware on the one hand and software on the other – i.e., a device (possibly including controllers) whose computing power enables visualization and interaction, and an app (cf. Söbke et al. 2017: 21). One such hardware device is the VR goggles. They show two slightly different images of the same scene so that it can be perceived in three dimensions. The VR glasses also register head movements, which means that the visualized world also moves when looking around. With the help of controllers, further interactions are possible, e.g. certain things can be looked at more closely.

One thing can be said about the history of virtual reality: The desire to distance oneself from reality has found countless manifestations and can hardly be dated. The explicit combination of a visual device coupled with activity and tactile additions for the purpose of immersion, here with a fan and cinematograph, can be found in a cyclist’s journal from 1897.

Fig. 3: Improved indoor cycling, in: Wheel and Cycling Trade Review, January 15, 1897, p. 64.

Since the early days of Web 2.0, there has been talk of a type of media whose most fundamental characteristic is that it is a mix: mashup media. With mashup media, activities of appropriation and compilation have come into focus. Formally heterogeneous elements, such as a link, plus a video and, for example, individual digital photographs, can in principle also be connected and received in real time. Combinations of AR and VR applications with different output devices are also understood as mashup media (cf. Schweiger et al. 2022: 12). In our kaleidoscope, mashup media are the basis on which a reframing and expansion of learning environments can take place. At the core of mashup media is the recognition and acknowledgement that mixing media and merging what is already there potentially creates new content.

Why do we want to use VR in education?
Learning takes place as an activity. However, learners are not always so easily placed in this state. As Schweiger et al. note in their study of learning outcomes through AR and VR, corresponding applications in the classroom meet with high motivation among learners, some of whom even report having fun (cf. Schweiger et al. 2022: 16).

According to their pervasive mediality, VR and AR applications support learners’ affective involvement and enable lasting and immersive learning experiences. As digital resources, they embody the idea of individualized and self-directed learning. This includes giving learners the freedom to follow their own interests, to interact with the virtual setting, to determine their own learning pace, and, if possible, to learn independent of location and time. From the teacher’s perspective, self-directed learning takes place as a process of empowerment – they must teach how to learn.

VR applications in particular ensure a high level of concentration on the learning object by isolating learners from potential distractions. As simulators, VR applications ensure that risks are minimized – for example, in virtual surgical training or in machine operation (cf. Hassemer 2022: n.d.). Activation also takes place in the sense that VR contexts have the principle of making learners part of the action.

However, it is not only learners and learning that benefit directly from the technology, but also teachers. AR and VR applications can take over parts of their work. For example, in the instruction-based field, AR and VR applications can take over instructional guidance as assistance systems. AR and VR applications can also assist in correcting. Timely feedback is essential in motor skills training, for example, and can often only be done selectively by instructors (just one person’s mistake when they see it). Digital systems, on the other hand, can correct without gaps and across the board, namely through automated feedback.

This already addresses two fundamental features from the culture of digitality: the mashup format as a feature of referentiality and automation as a feature of algorithmicity (cf. Stalder 2016: 13). The third characteristic not yet addressed, communality, lies, for example, in the possibility of linking the individual learning products and combining individual works into a larger whole.

How can AR and VR be didactically justified?
The extent to which digital resources can become an asset for the methodological-didactic design of teaching has been broken down by Ruben Puentedura with his SAMR model. Puentedura’s model, which is also used in the Kaleidoscope, ranges from the replacement of traditional teaching aids with media ‘at the cutting edge’ (substitution) to the renewal of task formats (redefinition). The special feature: The change here comes ‘from below’. It is no longer a matter of establishing new methods and then producing the appropriate teaching materials, but the other way around: new teaching materials result in new teaching methods. Accordingly, the implementation of AR and VR applications in teaching also coincides with the objective of media education; because here, too, it is about applying, understanding, analyzing and designing. Dieter Baacke famously named the desideratum in 1996 with the terms media use, media studies, media criticism and media design (cf. Baacke 1996).

To what extent do different forms of knowledge require different didactic approaches? How, for example, can procedural, declarative and strategic knowledge be taught according to their respective character? Procedural knowledge refers to methods and techniques, while declarative knowledge refers to the knowledge of legal relationships and ‘hard facts’. Strategic knowledge, on the other hand, is the ability to weigh things up, anticipate consequences and think strategically.

Didactically, AR and VR applications lend themselves to learning formats such as lecture, demonstration – imitation, task-based learning, explorative teaching, open teaching, learning through teaching, free work, project work, station learning, gamification, and reflection (cf. Schweiger et al. 2021: 22). Specifically, VR applications also allow learning through error and promote experiential knowledge with instruction-based applications.

In terms of learning subject matter, AR and VR have a unique selling point precisely where reality becomes inaccessible. This can be past times, remote locations, microscopic areas, or the interior of the body or earth.

Conclusion

The technology is ready, as the diverse use scenarios of AR and VR in the gaming industry, in virtual tourism, in applied research, in the entertainment industry, in 3D design or even in media art let us know. Meanwhile, the educational potentials of AR and VR applications still need to be further discovered, judging by the diversity of their occurrence. In the course of our workshops, we have not only experienced that some apps turn out to be pedagogically unsuitable, but on the contrary, here and there we have come across considerable educational potential that the product descriptions would never have led us to expect.

That AR and VR apps, which are indeed often provided by international tech giants, should be viewed critically in terms of data protection is a legitimate objection. That on an affective level and under immersive conditions, influence (e.g., through virtual advertising spaces) can arise more easily – these and similar fears are certainly justified. The question is only how, when and where a knowledgeable critical engagement with the media and, in its consequence, a corresponding media transformation can take place. The answer: certainly not by ignoring these technologies. Their educational potentials are too valuable for that. And last but not least: If schools are to open up to everyday life and learning is to take place in a self-determined manner, independent of time and place – then it must also be allowed to be fun.

Sources

Ronald T. Azuma: A Survey of Augmented Reality, in: Presence. Teleoperators and Virtual Environments, Vol. 6, No. 4, 1997, pp. 355-385.

Dieter Baacke: Medienkompetenz-Begrifflichkeit und sozialer Wandel, in: Antje von Rein (ed.): Medienkompetenz als Schlüsselbegriff, Bad Heilbrunn 1996, pp. 112-124

Joe Buchner: Making the Invisible Visible: Learning with Augmented Reality – Webinar, Oct. 18, 2019; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N6eLdB1cQm0

ColdFusion: What are Virtual and Augmented Realities?, YouTube video, 04/01/2017; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f9MwaH6oGEY

COPLAR Guide: Identifying Didactic Concepts – Community of Practice for Learning with AR and VR, 2021; https://www.social-augmented-learning.de/wp-content/downloads/210225-Coplar-Leitfaden_final.pdf

Simon Maria Hassemer: VR in school; https://3d-erleben.kultus-bw.de/,Lde/Startseite/XR/VR+in+the+school.

Johannes Klingebiel: Okay, let’s talk about the metaverse, in: zine – newsletter about marketing visions, tech, design, climate & weirdness, no. 140, 27.07.2021; https://www.getrevue.co/profile/klingebeil/issues/okay-reden-wir-uber-das-metaverse-690415?utm_campaign=Issue&utm_content=view_in_browser&utm_medium=email&utm_source=Johannes+Klingebiel

Paul Milgram et al: Augmented Reality: A Class of Displays on the Reality-Virtuality Continuum, in: SPIE, No. 2351, Telemanipulator and Telepresence Technologies, 1994, pp. 282-292.

Ruben Puentedura: SAMR and TPCK: Intro to Advanced Practice, 2010; http://hippasus.com/resources/sweden2010/SAMR_TPCK_IntroToAdvancedPractice.pdf

Juliana Schlicht: How can learning successes be made visible and what are they worth?, in Vocational Education in Science and Practice, Vol. 43, No. 3, 2014, pp. 48-50; https://nbn-resolving.org/urn:nbn:de:0035-bwp-14348-0

Moritz Schweiger et al: Learning success in school through augmented and
Virtual Reality? A quantitative synopsis of impact studies on the use of virtual
Realitäten in Grund- und weiterführenden Schulen, in: MedienPädagogik – Zeitschrift für Theorie und Praxis der Medienbildung, No. 47, 2022, pp. 1-25; https://doi.org/10.21240/mpaed/47/2022.04.01.X

Felix Stalder: Kultur der Digitalität, Berlin 2016.

Heinrich Söbke et al: From AR-App to Learning Experience: Designing a Formal Framework for the Use of Augmented Reality as a Teaching Tool, Proceedings of the Pre-Conference Workshops of the 15th E-Learning Symposium on Computer Science DelFI, Chemnitz 2017, pp. 15-27; https://www.researchgate.net/publication/319718277_Von_der_AR-App_zur_Lernerfahrung_Entwurf_eines_formalen_Rahmens_zum_Einsatz_von_Augmented_Reality_als_Lehrwerkzeug

All links listed were last checked for currency on 5/13/2022.
Check this out! Our VR recommendations

→ VirtualiTeach presents the latest VR products suitable for education: www.virtualiteach.com

→ Blocks is a Google app that builds 3D models; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1TX81cRqfUU

→ Tilt Brush is a Google app for painting in 3D; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TckqNdrdbgk

Aufsatz auf Deutscher Sprache

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