Several UW VW Avalumni have been exploring virtual reality tools alongside Suzette Lewis, graduate of the UW Certificate in Virtual Worlds Class of 2012. Valibrarian (Dr. Valerie Hill) and Suzician (Suzette Lewis, doctoral student at UW) presented a session on virtual reality and the future of libraries at the Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education Conference in March 2016.
Currently, virtual reality developers face a challenge of providing the collaborative experience of interactivity for learning that one finds in virtual worlds, such as building together and sharing content. VR developers are scurrying to build immersive experiences and the potential is obvious. Suzette shared the new HTC VIVE with Val who was able to visit a beautiful simulation of Icelend and a program for drawing and painting in 3D. Val quickly made a rainbow with a pot of gold and found the Tilt Brush program intuitive.
Children enjoy building in Minecraft and now have the option to enter Minecraft in 3D using virtual reality systems, such as GEAR VR. The educational potential for Minecraft has been documented in recent research articles and more research is needed before recommending virtual reality platforms for those under the age of 13 due to lack of understanding about cognitive development in relation to VR.
Teachers and librarians will soon be exploring virtual reality systems and the UW Avalumni believe evaluation for best practices is crucial. Choosing the best tool for curriculum content will be necessary as digital citizenship once again brings new challenges to 21st century students.