New educational technology is revolutionizing how K–12 students and teachers engage with each other in and out of school.
Online communities are certainly not new. For decades social media, online forums and messaging boards brought people together around common interests and shared goals.
The explosion of new digital solutions, however, ushered in new possibilities for immersive experiences that challenge traditional notions of school communities.
Augmented and virtual reality and voice-activated technologies are not only helping schools meet current, prevailing social expectations but also are allowing K–12 communities to expand beyond real-world limitations.
VR Adds New Immersive Elements to Videoconferencing
Schools are a place to foster leadership, empathy, problem-solving and communication skills. When used appropriately, classroom technologies can promote the development of these competencies while meeting students where they are.
Virtual reality brings a dynamic layer to the student experience, teaching students critical social skills in engaging and interactive ways. Immersive programs can open rural schools to the global community or make collaborative problem-solving and communication more fluid and intuitive.
For example, students can now give their best friend a hug or high-five, compete in a soccer match or harmonize in a virtual band even when separated by an ocean. Teachers can take classes to far away locations, and regular school programing and activities can include students from anywhere in the world.
Virtual Tools Promote Inclusivity in Schools
Digital avatars put students on an even playing field, which can boost their self-confidence and help them learn to accept the differences in others.
In a virtual world, students are also not limited by their physical abilities, language proficiencies or resource availability. Students can join in collective cultural experiences, such as dances and performances, with schools from all corners of the globe.
Together, these technologies blur the line between the digital realm and the physical one—redefining how students talk to each other and think of social bonds.
K–12 Schools Can Use Digital Spaces to Gamify Events
Participants celebrated stageside with other avatars as the DJ cheered them on. Others floated through the air, thanks to altered gravity in the virtual world. The performance, complete with real-life stage visuals, lasers and oversized holograms, transported concertgoers to an exclusive experience only possible in a digital space.
Those who tuned in to the concert were more than spectators; they were active participants, present in the crescendo of a new kind of virtual community.
The growing popularity of interactive, collective technologies also calls into question our traditional notions of place — from what boundaries define the campus to assigned seating, individual desks and lockers.
Activating the classroom through technology integration lays the foundation of a more expanded, global classroom that empowers students to better relate to themselves, each other and the modern world around them.