Virtual and Augmented Reality and Initial Teacher Education students: Novelty or Game Changer

Stephen Roulston, Pamela Cowan, Martin Brown, Rachel Farrell, Samuel Taggart

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review


There is considerable growth in the commercial viability and economic potential of Virtual Reality (VR). In the UK, for example, the popular press (Pham, 2017) predict a rise in the market value of VR by 390% between 2016 and 2020, reaching £354.3m. The adoption and advancement of VR by global technology giants such as Facebook, Samsung and Google herald unprecedented commercial interest in this area with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg citing VR’s potential to be “the next major computing platform” (Urstadt & Frier, 2016). Both VR and Augmented Reality (AR) are increasingly in use in education and training, if the rise in the variety and number of outputs in educational journals is an effective guide. The potential of the technology has been cited by researchers from a range of diverse fields such as dissecting a virtual frog (Lee, Wong and Fung, 2010), teaching mathematical concepts (Pasqualotti & Freitas, 2002) or learning about thermodynamics (Coller & Shernoff, 2009). There has been a rapid and accelerating increase in the sophistication of VR technology, and 3D Virtual Learning Environments have been getting more diverse and pervasive. Despite the proliferation of research on the potential effectiveness of VR across a range of educational settings (see Vaughan et al., 2016), examining how it can support Initial Teacher Education (ITE) seems to have been little researched. Nonetheless, VR/AR would seem to have a potentially valuable contribution to Initial Teacher Education bringing awareness of this novel technology to those about to enter teaching and also highlighting possible uses of the technology in supporting the curriculum in schools. Considering immersive technologies as a continuum which includes Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and 360 degree video and imagery, this research will examine how such technologies can be used by teachers, through the creation and use of reusable learning objects which support the curriculum using both free and commercially available platforms. It will examine the impact of VR, and associated technologies, through the creation of Situated Experiential Educational Environments – SEEEs (Schott and Marshall, 2018) and other artefacts to examine the impact that virtual environments can have on learners occupying a virtual space.. Across the world, and particularly in Ireland and Northern Ireland, there is a dearth of empirical evidence on the extent to which ITE students are prepared to incorporate immersive technologies into their teaching, or what their views of these innovative technologies are. The overall aims of this study are to explore the links between student teachers’ views of the technology; their aptitude for and relationship with the technology and their emerging pedagogical practices. Furthermore, ITE student teachers’ learning experiences relating to immersive technology integration, as well as the influence these experiences may have had on their current uses of digital technology, will be analysed. Method We employed a exploratory convergent mixed-methods approach (Creswell, 2014) using qualitative and quantitative methods. The first part of the study involved online questionnaires administered to student teachers in four Initial Teacher Education establishments, two in Ireland and two in Northern Ireland (n=320). The institutions are: Ulster University and Queen’s University, Belfast: Northern Ireland Dublin City University and University College Dublin: Ireland We will report on the student teachers' experience of immersive technologies such as VR and AR, and an evaluation of their affective and cognitive understanding of immersive technologies. A sub-group of the student teachers from each of the ITE institutions were given interventions in which VR and AR was demonstrated and explored in an educational setting. Following the intervention, another survey will be completed by the sub-group, to examine the impact of the interventions on the affective and cognitive understanding of the technologies. We will report on the changes in those understandings for a sub-group of the whole ITE student body in the original survey (n=52), highlighting changes in attitudes to the potential of this technology for use in schools and in ITE institutions. This group were surveyed online and semi-structured interviews were conducted to gain more insight into the views of these individuals. The themes emerging included a reticence by some student teachers to take on the mantle of being 'the ICT innovators' in schools, when the respondents had relatively little experience and perceived authority, alongside a recognition of the potential of VR/AR in supporting a rich pedagogy in schools. All responses will be anonymous, and no personal data which would allow any identification of any of the respondents will be collected. The study has been given approval after going through the full ethical approval processes of one of the Universities in the study. Expected Outcomes VR and AR seem set to play a larger role in technology use in general use and it would be unsurprising if they began to play more of a role within education also. While some writers such as Lee and Wong (2014) concede that some of the noted impact of the technology might be ascribed to a ‘novelty effect’ (Lee and Wong, 2014), other meta-analyses of VR (see Merchant et al., 2014) demonstrate the “…unique affordances that it offers in enhancing learners’ cognitive skills” (2014:30). It has also been noted that these immersive technologies have the potential to support the development of learners with particular needs, such as emotional and social skills in autistic young people (Ip et al., 2018). In this study we focused on the level of experience that student teachers had of VR/AR and how this was changed when they saw examples of it in practice and were able to experience and help to create AR and VR artefacts. The challenges of using any form of ICT in schools are well researched, including a fear of a technological skills deficit or technological problems (Eifler et al., 2001), or of a lack of time to experiment with new technologies (Wepner et al., 2003). This technology is so new to most ITE students that these fears may be compounded further, resulting in a low integration of the technology into pedagogical practices, or it may be that the innovativeness and the potential of the technology may serve to assist in its uptake.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEuropean Conference on Educational Research (ECER)
Subtitle of host publicationECER Conference - 2019
Publication statusPublished - 4 Sep 2019
EventECER 2019 - Hamburg, Germany
Duration: 2 Sep 20196 Sep 2019


ConferenceECER 2019


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