What Are the Drawbacks of Using Virtual Reality in K-12 Schools?

Virtual reality is a hot topic in K-12 education, and many futurists are calling it the next big thing in edtech. In response to this, we wrote, “What Are the Benefits of Using Virtual Reality in K-12 Schools.” In that article, we listed all of the benefits of using virtual reality in the classroom. Since we never like to be accused of reporting one side of an issue, we decided to explore the other end of the virtual reality coin. Yes, you guessed it; in this piece, we will list all of the drawbacks of using virtual reality in K-12 schools.

Devalues the importance of human connections and synergy in education. In the quest to embrace technology and to make learning more accessible and exciting, we forget about the importance of human connection. With virtual reality, it’s just you and your virtual reality software. Even if your classmates are experiencing it right alongside you, it’s not the same as human connection. When I was a little kid, I reveled in the synergy of learning right alongside my classmates in a physical environment. As an adult, I have used virtual reality, and while it’s amazing, it’s still not the same as experiencing something firsthand, alongside actual human beings. Sure, using it can give you goosebumps, but they’re just artificial. Nothing takes the place of the goosebumps that appear when you experience something first hand.

Virtual Reality is rigid and lacks flexibility. If you are in a class with a teacher, you can ask questions, and receive one on one assistance. You can do the same thing in virtual reality, but the experience is not the same. Also if you are using a specific software that has been programmed to do a couple of things and nothing else, then the learning options are paltry. This lack of flexibility can stifle the teaching and learning process, and hamper a student’s intellectual development. This happens because education is not a fixed event, it needs the flexibility to flourish.

Sometimes functionality is an issue. When you are using virtual reality software or apps, if they malfunction, the student’s learning experience is over. Students can’t engage in the learning activity again until the problem is fixed. So, if a student is using virtual reality to experience what life was like for a soldier during the Revolutionary War, and their headset goes out, that’s it for the learning experience.

Virtual reality can create “VR addicts.” Edtech is only about 20 years old, so we are just learning of some of the possible consequences of using it. Research shows that kids can become addicted to virtual reality in the same way that drug addicts become addicted to heroin. Virtual reality and other edtech devices affect the frontal cortex, the section of the brain that controls impulses and execution, in the same way, that heroin does. Using virtual reality increases dopamine levels, which is why students become miserable when you take their virtual reality headsets away from them.

It is really expensive. Over the last decade, we have seen edtech become increasingly expensive. The cost of introducing virtual reality into all K-12 schools in the United States would cost billions of dollars. Even though each district would be purchasing their own products, their share would still be hundreds of thousands of dollars, even millions, depending on the size of the district. Is virtual reality worth the cost? I don’t know, but it is a valid question. What I do know is, because of the cost, only the richer districts would be able to afford it. Under-resourced districts, which overwhelmingly enroll low-income students would not be able to purchase virtual reality devices. This would exacerbate the inequality that already exists in education.

Did I leave anything out?


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