As the landscape for technology use in the classroom changes, many teachers are preparing for online supported teaching and learning long term. While challenging, it’s clear that the future of learning incorporates much more technology. The impacts on teachers are numerous, from changing attitudes on technology use to preparing for both challenges and opportunities in the classroom, there is much to consider.
Let’s first look at teachers’ attitudes towards technology in education in general. Internationally, the implementation of technological change in schools has not brought the desired results of student-centered pedagogies, and this is often blamed on teachers (Ertmer & Ottenbreit-Leftwich, 2010; Howard & Mozejko, 2015). There is, however, ’increasing awareness that’ teachers need more support (Howard & Mozejko, 2015 p.5). Without support from the leadership and the wider school community, it can be difficult to make full use of the transformational potential of technology.
Decisions by teachers about integrating technology are influenced by various factors. According to Howard & Mozejko (2015), these are the teachers’ beliefs about technology in education, the level of confidence they have in using technology, and their school culture. When a school embraces technology integration, school leaders have a vision and support teachers technically and pedagogically, teachers are more likely to integrate technology, especially if the technology enhancement is relevant to the subject and ‘aligns with the aims and goals of their teaching’ (ibid, 2015, p.10). This shows us that teachers put pedagogy first and believe that technology needs to be used purposefully. So, to bring about real change through technology integration, leadership, administration and the individual teachers need to be involved, and support provided for professional development and teacher education programs (Ertmer, P.A. & Ottenbreit-Leftwich, 2010). In most technology initiatives, these elements have been missing (Hargreaves & Shirley, 2009 in Howard & Mozejko, 2015). Without proper implementation, which includes technological support and teacher training, educational technologies won’t enhance learning, and are instead limited to amplify the teaching practices already in place, for good or ill.
Teacher perspectives on VR and AR technology
Proper support, a vision from leadership, and a strong implementation process can make the use of technology more valuable to teachers, but what about those technologies that are only just beginning to be adopted in the classroom: augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are now both on the horizon as the education landscape changes. What considerations do educators have about these new advances?
Many teachers, even though they don’t think it’s going to revolutionize education (Fransson, Holmberg & Westelius, 2020), see the benefits of using VR or AR and agree there is potential with both because they can generate interest in learners: make learning more fun and engaging, help learners visualise and understand abstract or complex concepts and processes, make learning more experiential (Alalwan et al., 2020; Fransson, Holmberg & Westelius, 2020) and even enhance the status of teachers’ and their work (Fransson, Holmberg & Westelius, 2020).
When teachers’ concerns about and challenges of using technology are addressed, it’s possible for the benefits to materialize. Let’s take a look at what teacher research can tell us.
The figure below from Alalwan et al. (2020) shows the challenges teachers in the study experienced with VR and AR.
In Fransson, Holmberg & Westelius (2020), the list of challenges and concerns is similar to that in the above study:
- Lack of economic resources to purchase the hardware and software
- Worries about technical issues and availability of technical support
- Time needed to learn the technology and the need for professional development
- Possible lack of focus by students who might get distracted from the learning content by the VR experience itself
- Organisational challenges such as suitable teaching environment, availability of sufficient devices, teachers and support
- Issues related to curricula, syllabuses and expected learning outcome (e.g. how to integrate VR meaningfully into the curriculum and align with learning outcomes).
Other studies have found similar benefits and challenges (Dunleavy, Dede & Mitchell, 2008; Patterson & Han, 2019; McMurtrie, 2019).
It is interesting to see that most of the challenges or concerns in using VR or AR are similar to those expressed for technology integration in teaching in general above.
Generally, teachers from different countries, educational contexts and cultures can see the potential of VR and AR in education and are willing to use this technology once the challenges they have experienced or concerns they have raised have been addressed. The more that EdTech and educational content developers can do to address these and other challenges, the more seamlessly we can bring VR and AR technology into our classrooms to enhance the learning experience and engage our learners.
Alalwan, N., Cheng, L., Al-Samarraie, H., Yousef, R., Alzahrani, A. I. & Sarsam, S. M. (2020). Challenges and Prospects of Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality Utilization among Primary School Teachers: A Developing Country Perspective. Studies in Educational Evaluation, 66,100876. doi:10.1016/j.stueduc.2020.100876
Dunleavy, M., Dede, C. & Mitchell, R. Affordances and Limitations of Immersive Participatory Augmented Reality Simulations for Teaching and Learning. J Sci Educ Technol 18, 7–22 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10956-008-9119-1
Fransson, G., Holmberg, J. & Westelius, C. The challenges of using head mounted virtual reality in K-12 schools from a teacher perspective. Educ Inf Technol 25, 3383–3404 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10639-020-10119-1
Howard, S. K. & Mozejko, A. (2015). Teachers: technology, change and resistance. In M. Henderson & G. Romeo (Eds.), Teaching and Digital Technologies: Big Issues and Critical Questions (pp. 307-317). Port Melbourne, Australia: Cambridge University Press.
McMurtrie, B. (2020, July 22). Virtual Reality Comes to the Classroom. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved November 05, 2020, from https://www.chronicle.com/article/virtual-reality-comes-to-the-classroom/
Patterson, T., Han, I. Learning to Teach with Virtual Reality: Lessons from One Elementary Teacher. TechTrends 63, 463–469 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11528-019-00401-6
Ertmer, P.A & Ottenbreit-Leftwich, A.T. (2010). Teacher Technology Change, Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 42:3, 255-284. https://doi.org/10.1080/15391523.2010.10782551