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VR is great, but here’s why hands-on learning can’t disappear

Physically engaging with tangible toys is the best way to take a lesson that is taught on a computer screen and apply it to everyday skills.

With 80 percent of teachers reporting that they support the use of technology in the classroom, it is important to integrate tools that best fit with a child’s learning abilities, as well as school curriculum. Just this spring, a tech trend spun through the nation and it seemed as though almost every elementary school child was holding a fidget spinner. It was reported that the momentum of these small, ball-bearing devices provide a pleasing sensory experience, and therefore help hold the attention of those with ADHD or Autism.

This trend sparked a national conversation around keeping children focused in the classroom. While some may argue that the spinner is not classroom-ready and may serve as more of a distraction than an aid, tangible toys and gadgets are undeniably the best way to engage with children and it is important that we utilize tools that effectively teach math, science and the arts.

With the help of technological tools and toys, children can now engage with worlds that they could have only experienced before in their dreams. However, we must find a way to teach children to utilize these tools to interact with the world around us, not just the digital world.

Reality vs. Virtual Reality

AR and VR have enabled teachers to augment the scene of the classroom to not just tell, but also show lessons of the past and lessons of the future. But while our children are exposed to the many benefits of augmented and virtual reality, it is important that we avoid at all costs the distortion of reality.

Teachers are all too often pressed with the burning question “but when will I use this in real life?” and it is imperative that we make sure the lessons that we teach our children in an AR and VR space is actually applicable to their everyday lives.

Physically engaging with tangible toys is the best way to take a lesson that is taught on a computer screen and apply it to everyday skills. Pairing augmented or virtual reality with physical products gives children the ability to learn through virtual technologies and simultaneously interact with digital tools. It is proven that the most powerful learning happens when the integration of body and mind are engaged at the same time.

(Next page: Examples of VR pairing with physical tools; customizing for individuals)

Technological tools that engage both mental and physical interaction creates an immersive learning experience that cultivates a learning environment that is both stimulating and fun. For instance, Curiscope has invented a technologically advanced t-shirt, called “Virtuali-Tee,” that one student can wear while their peers use the accompanying app on a smartphone to view anatomical images that lets the user both interact and explore the human body in animated 3D.

This not only incorporates a physical aspect, but also encourages the interaction of peers and physical movement, creating an environment that is collaborative and engaging, and not solely limited to a touchscreen and app interface.

Customizing Classroom Activities so that No One Is Left Behind

Teachers not only have the ability to customize specific tech tools, but they also have the ability to augment the scene of the entire classroom with the help of Google’s Project Tango. VR field trips virtually transport students to a different place and allow them to interact with the objects that appear before them. This kind of technology enables teachers to tailor both educational lessons and learning experiences that best fit the needs of students and curriculum.

While VR is an amazing technological advancement, opening up a whole new world of possibility for our children, it is important that we do not forget to empower them with tools that they can use with their hands and not limit their own imagination.

Even with the most basic of lessons, Marbotic is a company that transformed the traditional wood number puzzle by adding a digital tech component with touchscreen technology. With wooden toys that are compatible with a tablet, children are able to play with or without the digital aid and invent their own games with their own knowledge of what the technology can do.

In our connected world, children today are internet junkies with 80 percent of kids under 5 using the internet weekly; and edtech companies must ensure that their products are enriching and not hindering their learning experiences.

Edtech companies must lead the way by creating products that encourage children to both learn and play with devices that teach skills of both the physical and virtual world, while interacting with tech tools that teach both reality and virtual reality.

There is no doubt that technology will continue to advance numerous aspects of our life, but it is important that we do not forget to physically interact with our world and teach our children to do the same. If we are constantly plugged into a device, we will inevitably miss out on creating physical connections that bring us closer to others and the world around us.

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