Dr. Dannagate: School’s out – VR makes classrooms family friendly for kids with autism
The World Health Organization (WHO) says “the most important strategy for parents to help their child with disabilities learn social skills and peer interaction is by the application of in-classroom training.”
Education Of Yousuf Mansur, a 4th grade student who is deaf, uses virtual reality (VR) was quite well received by his teacher and colleagues during the second week of school. And to demonstrate the effectiveness of this innovative solution to what they believe to be one of the most common subjects in class, the educators gave The Daily Beast a three-minute demo of the VR process, while reviewing the lectures, which involve a digital activity after the lecture to demonstrate social skills to class.
When assigning these topics in class, they also hope to have their students build new friends.
The technology is simply an in-class learning system that was developed by the researchers at the European-based Israeli Technologies for Artificial Intelligence and Human Cognition (ETACH). All students use headsets that are used to see a “glass bubble” on a screen. The bubble contains virtual reality games and videos, which their teacher can control through headphones.
See our article on the Virtual-reality Educational System
Image credit: Courtesy of ETACH
Traditionally, education involves students learning a subject for a set time, often with supplementary materials being distributed in different forms. But, with the rise of computer technology and a healthy amount of, not to mention cheap, access to in-class instruction through various media channels, the practical issue is how to incorporate such technology into the curriculum to ensure consistency of learning and to enhance the ability of students to develop and socialize, particularly using electronic devices.
The answer lies in using either an in-class simulator, or — more interestingly, given the widespread availability of these systems through schools — a VR platform. It is not only effective as a means of simultaneous learning to and learning by, as well as strengthening social skills; educational experts also believe it to be a method of enhancing students’ abilities to learn new material, having an impact on behavior, and passing along information.
Still, teachers are far from being enthusiastic about using VR solutions in class due to ethical concerns.
This belief was strengthened by the case of Virtual reality use in class for autistic children. A Harvard graduate student trained by scientists to work with autistic children, who also had the misconception that education began and ended with the primary set of skills, was asked to use VR for training the group’s peers in order to benefit their own classrooms.
However, the students’ perceptions led to the creation of “misinformed misconceptions,” the teaching scholar states, about the use of virtual reality. At its core, their mind-set is to use the technology to make learning difficult in order to ensure students don’t take their learning too far.
Yet, to the female Harvard student’s dismay, “Many students with the condition found virtual reality difficult to understand,” says Georgia Dagnall, an expert with the Autism Society. Many saw and believed that “the simulated environment and activities were not adaptive enough to allow for spontaneous participation,” she continues.
Importantly, her research has further contradicted the behavior of students in classrooms by insisting that “[t]he experiences of someone with autism necessarily differed from that of an unaffected peer.” This may have some relevance to parents and students alike, since the use of Virtual Reality technology in education could be problematic if it becomes too adaptive to students’ personal spectrum.
Dagnall states that although “a lack of coherence in information provision or the absence of trained individuals to provide correction for learning difficulties” was a commonly asserted complaint about VR methods in schools, her study had shown to offer “low need for either direct intervention or teacher management in context of his [her colleague’s] classroom,” and this would have affected the usefulness of VR in classrooms, particularly where children with autism are concerned.