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A Not-So-Virtual Reality Expert offers insight into the state of VR in education and thoughts on its future

with VR is the right approach, which is to expose students to hardware and software, show them what games and experiences have already been made and then encourage students to become content creators. And I think that’s a really great approach right now.

EQ: Why do you say that? SH: It’s just such early days for VR. Mind you, there are going to be people who say, well, we’ve been studying VR and how people learn with it for 25 years. But it’s early days for understanding how students are going to learn curriculum in VR in its current iteration and how, in the long run, we’re going to build engaging content for VR. And to have students in EAST programs on the front lines of that, interacting with the hardware and the software and experimenting, I think we’re going to pull a lot of casual information, a lot of casual learnings out of that. And by “we” I mean the broader VR-in-education community, in which EAST will certainly have some prominence. EQ:

How do you rebut the criticism that putting VR in classrooms is just letting kids play video games at school? Because we’ve seen it used in some incredible projects.


The critical thing, and I think EAST does a really good job of this, is that you guys are using technology to engage students as members of the community and as humans. So I think, again, while it’s early days, that’s how it should work. You use technology as a tool, right?

I think that in these next couple of years, we’ll start learning a lot more about how certain types of students respond to certain types of content. And EAST is in a place where you’ve already had students interacting with the hardware and software. That will provide a nice voice in that discussion from a place of wisdom and experience. But what really sets EAST apart is that you guys understand that when you use technology as a tool, as an agent of change, you can foster even more community interaction and get more out of the technology.


Based on how you’ve seen VR used, what advice would you give EAST students on thinking outside the box and realizing what’s possible through VR and how they might use it in projects?

VR is the best tool to inspire anyone to start thinking outside the box.

SH: I think what EAST is trying to do

SH: I think for students in EAST, one of the best ways to approach VR from a student or human perspective is to think of it as a tool that solves problems like all good technology does. And EAST has already done a tremendous job by being founded on the idea of using technology to solve problems but using students to create the solutions and utilize the technology. VR is a really great extension of that. I’ve seen some international artists using VR in a very simple way to create art together, in real time, from different countries. And I see developers working with doctors to figure out a way to create a virtual medical review room, where doctors from different countries or different cities can put on a headset and go to the same room and look at patient data together, solve a medical diagnosis together. I’ve seen data visualization projects come together, where people are taking just massive amounts of data that are super hard to sift through on an Excel spreadsheet or traditional pie charts, and they’re using VR to create new visualization systems. The best way to encourage anyone, really, is just to put on the headset and explore different applications. That’s it. VR is the best tool to inspire anyone to start thinking outside the box.

EQ: Why do you say that? SH: Because we’ve been forced to think in 2D for a very long time. Because we haven’t had a way to see someone else’s 3D world. VR for the first time allows you to engage, interact and immerse yourself not only in your own 3D world but in someone else’s. That’s what happens when you put that headset on. SPRING 2017 | EAST QUARTERLY


Spring 2017 EQ  

The quarterly magazine of the EAST Initiative.