Brain Food: Virtual Reality Learning

Mar 30, 2017

Students at Northern Arizona University are part of an experiment in virtual reality learning. They're using high=tech goggles and applications to transport themselves into ancient cultures and inside molecules for a better understanding of how our senses help us learn. 

NAU's Virtual Reality Lab
Credit NAU

Giovanni Castillos is the lab director for NAU's project. He says he always tells people, "You're going to have an experience, rather than doing learning sessions. And for different learning styles, it opens up a whole new different way to learn instead of just memorization, which is the 20th century or 19th century approach to learning."

The concept is that students will learn better and faster if they have an experience. They're transported into different 3D environments - Mayan temples or the edge of the Grand Canyon. It's like a video game, but the scenarios are real and the students are in it. 

NAU Virtual Reality Lab
Credit NAU

Ally Orr is an intern in the lab. "Sometimes you're a little disoriented because you're moving in a virtual world, and then you come back here to the physical world," Orr says. "It's like, 'Oh, I feel a little dizzy or I feel a little unstable'. But it's a pretty amazing experience. Everybody likes to play games, so if you make homework a game, people are going to be more interested."

Giovanni Castillo thinks this is the future of virtual learning tools. "It can be applied in all areas," he says, "archaeology, anthropology, earth sciences, chemistry, media arts. And we're doing cinical tests with psychology".