We’ve come a long way from the early days of television and computer screens, when images were grainy and pixelated and sound was tinny or non-existent! Today, we’ve got high resolution images on our smart phones, video games our fingertips, GPS, and banking apps, right in our pockets.

Self-driving cars are almost here, and our homes are just about to be taken over by the latest digital trend: virtual reality. While it’s being marketed as an entertainment tool, this new tech also has some great advantages for STEM education, and it’s likely you’ll see it in your child’s school sometime soon. Here’s what you need to know.

What Is Virtual Reality?

Most parents these days grew up in a time when tech was simpler and more basic. We remember a time before cell phones, and possibly even cassette tapes! If you’re one of the less tech savvy parents out there, you may be wondering what virtual reality even is.

It’s a complex type of technology that uses close proximity 3D imaging to fool the brain into believing that the user is immersed in the virtual reality world, and very clever software to allow users to interact with that reality to varying degrees.

In a nutshell, imaging being part of a movie, or living a computer game, and you have the basics of VR. That’s not only great for entertainment, but also great for education.

Using VR in STEM Education

It’s only a matter of time before virtual reality becomes a fixture in schools. Imagine a technology that will allow students to virtually walk through museums on the other side of the world, or swim with marine life in their natural habitat! It’s got so many possible applications in education in general, and in STEM studies in particular, including:

  • A cruelty-free way to conduct dissection on a variety of critters, or just to see what they look like inside!
  • The perfect way to conduct experiments that may otherwise be too dangerous for the school science lab.
  • A great way to test engineering and physics in simulated realities, and even in hard to replicate environments like zero gravity or vacuums.
  • The ideal way to conduct field trips to impossible to reach places. Imagine using the footage from the Mars rover with VR to take a stroll on the red planet?
  • An amazing way to model mathematical concepts in a digital reality, so kids can see their formulae at work, and manipulate them in real time!
  • Access to the best teachers and experts from around the world, in a virtual reality setting.
    Imagine if your kids could attend lectures by the leading lights in STEM education from around the world, without leaving their classrooms?

The truth is, virtual reality is going to allow students to explore this world and others in ways that we have never imagined possible. It’s going to let kids do things they would never be able to do otherwise, and it will undoubtedly even find its way into tertiary and high level medical, engineering and scientific study.

The future is certainly here, and it is amazing!