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  • Allison Graham

But What about Dewey?

To a traditional teacher, virtual reality can seem big, scary, and out of this world. As revolutionary it is in its platforms, upon closer examination, virtual reality is pedagogically sound, epitomizing many of the heralded cornerstones of educational and curriculum theory. So do not dismay, your Dewey is as salient now as ever.

Dewey and Experiential Education

Virtual reality education is strongly rooted in Dewey’s notion of experiential education. Dewey’s school of thought contended that student experiences should be directly linked to their life outside of school (Dewey, as cited in Flinders & Thornton, 2017). Experiential education is a teaching philosophy that is built around concrete experience, solving problems, and reflecting on processes and their transferable applications. Immersive learning epitomizes experiential education as students delve into a 360o, experiential setting that involves the five senses.

Piaget and Constructivist Learning Constructivist learning theory holds that knowledge is constructed through an individual’s interactions with the environment and that students learn better when they are actively involved in learning-by-doing (Piaget, 1952). VR provides a controlled environment where students can navigate, manipulate, and observe the effects of virtual objects found within (Fokides, et al., 2008). It is well situated for providing a constructivist learning environment (Chen, 2010). Constructivism also plays into virtual reality as multimedia and hypermedia applications that allow students to freely select their courses and offer non-linear access to contents (Leung, et al. 2018).

Lave and Situated Learning Theory According to Lave et al. (1991), learning is situated in a specific context and embedded within a particular social and physical environment. Rather than just abstract knowledge that is espoused in a box (classroom), learning should be intentionally embedded within an active context, and/or culture. This context can be created through virtual reality by use of an avatar in which a student can use an image version of themselves to move about in a virtual context (Yasin, et al., 2012). Additionally, some of the features of VR that can facilitate situated learning include (1) controlling and modifying the environment, (2) a contextually rich and realistic context, (3) and flexibility that allows students to adjust the difficulty of the problem, and thus the level of challenge involved, to build their knowledge and skills (Leung, et al., 2018) Bandura and Social Cognition Theory Social Cognition Theory is a learning theory that is based on the idea that people learn by observing others, with the environment, behavior, and cognition acting as primary factors that influence development (Bandura, 2001). When the learner observes a model performing a behavior and the consequences of that behavior, they remember the sequence of events and can use it to guide subsequent behavior (Bandura, 2001). VR is well situated for social cognition training interventions to enhance social skills, social cognition, and social function (Didehbani, et al., 2016).

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