Education Needs Better Tools

Abraham Lincoln once said ‘If I had six hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend the first four hours sharpening the axe.”  In today’s world, particularly in education, we understand that sharpening existing tools are no longer the best way to do the job.  In industry, organizations spend billions of dollars on learning content for corporate and vocational training.  Currently, our educational system’s effectiveness in preparing a future workforce is questioned and there is a lot of hype about which technology will be a game changer.  After all, we’ve seen many technology approaches once considered the answer to revolutionizing education.  Among them are the iPod, learning objects, simulations, adaptive learning platforms, mobile learning, the iPad, gamification, massively open online courses (MOOCs) and others.  Today we look at virtual reality and augmented reality as the next tool.

It is tempting to be distracted by new things, in this case ‘shiny new technology’, like the virtual reality/augmented reality (VR/AR) technologies.  Although VR/AR is not actually new, it is only now emerging from the “trough of disillusion stage” as described in the Gartner Group’s emerging technology lifecycle.  Estimated at $674B by 2025, VR/AR is considered by many as the hottest technology market segment today.  Having been down the nanotechnology road over the last fifteen years, I see many parallels in play—from the market promise to its ubiquitous nature to the disruptive potential of VR/AR technologies.  In short, there is a lot of hype to contend with.  My organization, NanoTecNexus, earned its reputation by looking beyond the hype and focusing on where the rubber meets the road, or rather where tools meet the need, to get the job done.

Therefore, I can confidently say that I’m not writing this because I succumbed to the shiny new toy.  Rather, I’m drawn toward innovative technologies, education, and most certainly, the convergence of new technologies and their role in education.

VR Summit website banner (1)That’s why I gladly accepted the invitation from the Virtual Reality Summit Conference Program Chair, Sandra K. Helsel, PhD, to assemble and moderate a panel focused on VR in Education.  The VR Summit is scheduled for April 11-12, 2016 at the Javitz Convention Center in New York and in conjunction with the Inside 3D Printing and RoboUniverse Conference and Exposition, will create a literal ‘frontier technologies’ gathering.

I’m particularly excited about my panelists because they represent a trifecta of VR/AR education players. Each panelist represents three critical areas that have immense impact on the VR/AR industry—education solutions for industry and vocational purposes; education for K-12 with a focus on STEM; and education designed to fill the pipeline of VR/AR technologists. Stay tuned for the next installment of this blog, where I provide a sneak preview of each panelist’s perspective.

Panel Abstract and Speakers are:

“21st Century Jobs Require 21st Century Education and Tools”.

Education has been identified as the area that would most benefit from VR technologies. Business leaders say that training a pipeline of workers should start as early as kindergarten. Will VR be the most effective pedagogy for improving STEM education literacy and economic competitiveness in tomorrow’s workforce? Can industry reap benefits today by using VR for vocational training or for professions where high cost or dangerous environments are involved such as first responders, aeronautics and more? This expert panel will discuss the impact and feasibility of implementing educational VR technologies in industry and classrooms.

  • Brenda Grell, Faculty, Washington State University Vancouver’s CMDC Department
  • Pete Johnson, VP of Business Development, zSpace Inc.
  • Josh Maldonado, CEO and Founder, Discovr Labs

As the moderator, I welcome comments or questions that you would like relayed to the panelists in advance of the VR Summit.

See Part 2, “Impact of VR in Vocational Education and Training.”

See Part 3, “How VR Benefits From the Intersection of Arts, Technology and Humanities.”

See Part 4, “21st Century Tools for 21st Century Learning

Disclosure: I/we have no positions in any company mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.  I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it. I have no business relationship with any company mentioned beyond what is described in this article.

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