March 29, 2018

Virtual Cognition, Anyone, Anyone?

Someone recently asked us how we envisioned the use of virtual reality (VR) and 360 technologies in education. This query made us realize how little everyone actually "knows" about the potential impact of these technologies on education. What does virtual cognition (VC) look like? How will these technologies influence future stakeholders in education? To better understand how VR and 360 technologies will influence education in the future, we must first look to the past. Especially in terms of human cognition, as this particular field of study holds many potential elements to influence the integration of VR and 360 technologies in education.

Benjamin Bloom's three learning domains - Affective, Cognitive, and Psycho-motor - allowed cognitive scientists to qualify relationships between individuals' actions and thought processes. Simply put, people learn through emotions, critical thought, and movement. In addition to Bloom, Albert Bandura's Socio-cognitive theories provided scientists an understanding of the importance that self-efficacy plays in peoples' lives. In other words, we learn collectively, not as individuals alone on an island. Finally, John Flavell's work on meta-cognition allowed us to realize the importance of thinking about how we think. This suggests that gaining knowledge should not be the only consideration, we should also consider how we learned knowledge.

VR and 360 in Multiple Domains

The use of virtual reality (VR) and 360 technologies in education reflects a step forward in learners' cognitive development. These technologies allow all learners to actively participate across all three learning domains. How, you might ask? If you experience these technologies you will not need to ask. The immersive nature of these technologies provides learners with the ability to lose themselves in learning content. With VR and 360, learners use emotional connections - such as the feeling you might experience in watching a sting-ray float past you while "diving off the coast of New Zealand - critical thought - such as listening to a NASA engineer discuss work on the extraction of oxygen from rocks - and movement - such as learning to reach out to "grab" a lifeline while lost in outer space within a VR experience that does not exist in reality. At STEM-VRSE, we believe that VR and 360 technologies in future educational environments will provide learners with opportunities to not only learn, but to also simultaneously assist learners' cognitive development across multiple learning domains.

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VR and 360 in Socio-Cognition

VR and 360 technologies provides learners with unique opportunities in developing learners as productive members of society. These technologies create stable learning environments in the sense that content creators determine the social structure of learning for people using the technologies. Although on the surface this may seem to reduce self-efficacy, the use of these technologies will allow learners to become the content creators of their own learning. As a result, we believe VR and 360 technologies offer stakeholders in education with unique opportunities to not only promote learners' self-efficacy but to impact their understanding that with great knowledge comes great responsibility.

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VR and 360 in Metacognition

VR and 360 technologies allows educators to show learners the complexity of learning. These technologies provide immersive experiences forcing learners to reflect on what they learn. Although this skirts a self-efficacy issue, these technologies drive the point to learners that how you see the world and how you learn are just as important as what you see and what you learn. In our work at STEM-VRSE, we encourage researchers and educators alike to think about how these technologies influence how they conduct their research or teaching. Why? Because how they conduct their work will influence how learners will think about creating the next world.

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The influence of VC and associated technologies will influence future learners, of this there is little doubt. How we use VC to integrate technology and our knowledge of human cognition in creating learning environments has yet to be determined. We believe groups like STEM-VRSE are at the forefront of answering that question.