Self Reflection - Nontraditional Learning Style
No matter the subject, I used to struggle with learning in high school. Having been placed in all Regents level courses, not honors or AP (Advanced Placement) — I was a disappointment in my parents’ eyes. However, my mind was set on improving my education, once I got to college. But why is that? Why wasn’t I thinking about that in high school?
Reflecting back, I believe one reason was because of my inability to grasp the method in which traditional education was taught. Having a teacher in front of the classroom, reading paragraphs after paragraphs with some associated image, and taking notes never worked for me. This was reflected in my disinterest in the topics and lack of curiosity in classrooms, causing a negative impact on my learning experience. The only classes I enjoyed and wanted to excel in were math and art because there was more engagement in those courses. However, I still struggled, so I resorted to online platforms to help me out. To this day, I still use online platforms to learn, understand, and educate myself. As technology continuously evolves, so does its content, and I believe VR (Virtual Reality) is the future platform for learning. I want to study teaching methodologies in Virtual Reality to create the benefits of immersive digital learning.
Let's first dive into the beginning of my journey into digital learning. The year was 2007; I was an exemplary “B” student in high school, with a social circle filled with the offspring of the “Tiger Moms” and kids that look like they belong on the cover of “Princeton Review” books. I started to struggle in algebra, and a few other courses. My parents did their best trying to help me in any way they could. It’s important to note that at the time, many online educational platforms did not exist nor were popular. The most common video website was YouTube, and it was not known to have many educational videos. Some did exist, but it was with mediocre video quality and terrible audio. If a student was having difficulties in class, they would either resort to a private tutor or stay after school to get help. Due to my financial limitations, I always stayed after school, but even so I still struggled.
One day, my dad informed me about a website he read called Khan Academy. After checking a few of Khan Academy’s videos, something finally clicked in Algebra. Sal Khan, the instructor and founder, thoroughly explained and showed various methodologies of how a particular algorithm was to be solved. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why things started to make sense this time, because there could have been a number of different factors. My high school teachers and Sal were both effective instructors, but for some reason, learning it in physical class just was not as effective for me. In the online classroom, I had the benefit of using the functionality of going back and replaying the clip. This function of watching any online course repetitively, anywhere, without having the anxiety of holding back the rest of the class, helped me learn effortlessly.
My college learning experience had a mixture of various learning tools and procedures ranging from hands on development, visual critiquing, open lectures, and digital learning with a teacher in the class. I remember vividly for one of my classes; the professor would play us YouTube tutorials of a young teen teaching Final Cut Pro, a software to edit videos. A group of college students of an “esteemed” art institution watching a video tutorial made by a teen: if that doesn’t scream education can be taught across any medium by anyone, I don’t know what does.
Along with this form of digital teaching, I was also introduced to Lynda.com and various other digital learning platforms—and that changed my life. Online courses had everything ranging from humanities, science, math, and coding for an inexpensive monthly fee. I was heavily invested because of two reasons: first, my school did not offer any courses on technical software, business procedures, or various coding skills. The second was passion. Immediately after watching a few tutorials on something technical for a software, I was quickly understanding concepts. Online education not only paved the way for understanding concepts and providing technical skills that were not offered in my current environmental settings, but it led to curiosity and an unknown will to learn more and improve myself. Since my high school and college days of using Khan Academy and Lynda, there have been an incredible number of companies providing online education such as Pluralsight, Skillshare, Coursera, and EDx. Personally, I am also subscribed to 10+ creators on YouTube mainly for educational purposes on various subjects and am a proud owner of 43 courses on Udemy. We live in a time where we have accessibility to online education ranging from topics across all academic disciplines. I believe that we are in the golden age of digital learning.
Currently, we are all living in a global pandemic and constrained in our homes. Schools have closed and resorted to teaching online. Some schools did not want to do online learning, tried to open regardless of the safety precaution, but within weeks of opening, students were infected and the school had to close immediately. But not everything can be taught through a two-dimensional screen. As much as I praise digital learning, it also comes with a share of constraints. Hands-on training is difficult to achieve when the only physical matter near you is a computer screen. There are also obstacles of teaching through a computer screen such as distraction, limited interactivity, technical hardware capabilities and lack of collaboration.
This is where Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality separates itself and excels in ways that 2D online education cannot. Various industries have already started to integrate virtual reality into their training. Medical fields have utilized VR in preparing nursing students with basic nursing skills, and businesses are using VR headsets to practice public speaking. VR has been proven valuable in tourism and fashion, and just about every field is figuring out effective methods of implementing VR. With the rise of digital technologies such as 5G networks, and satellites bringing internet access to the unconnected, VR and AR technologies will only keep evolving and eventually will become a necessity—just like how the internet is used today. Entertainment, gaming, advertisement and various fields will not face financial restraints on integrating VR to their product or applications. The field where it is most vital, but will face some of the biggest challenges, is education.
Why do I think there is a great potential of virtual reality in education? Well, so far, I've only explained a few very oversimplification of the pros and cons and addressed some key components of virtual reality. The reason that I am so drawn to this platform is because of the potential of integrating teaching methodologies into it's practice. I became fascinated by this topic because it goes back to my difficulty of learning through the standard method of teaching in high school. It wasn’t effective for me. This can be a similar obstacle for future students that struggle with learning in school and will have to get jobs in the future at a time of even more advanced technology. If a student’s curiosity and passion are diminished in high school, there could be negative long-term implications for their life.
So I look forward to work on technological, educational projects for the younger generation and for other folks like me: students with nontraditional learning styles but an eagerness to learn.