Picture this: A student wears a set of goggles that transport her from a classroom in Athens, Georgia, to the Parthenon, 5,600 miles away in Athens, Greece. In an interactive, 3-D world, she peers up and down each of the 17 columns on the temple’s side and examines the fluted shafts. She notes that they have no bases. It’s easy to understand the differences between Ionic and Doric architecture here: rather than relying on textbook descriptions, those differences come to life before her eyes.
The technology exists to make this scene a reality in classrooms across America. And the conditions appear ripe, as well, which is fueling the latest round of eager speculation about virtual reality’s readiness to break through to the educational mainstream.
The answer is probably no, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hold promise. What needs to happen is the creation of tools that makes it easier to create. Google Sketchup and Minecraft are both steps in the right direction. In fact, Minecraft could be quite a player in the VR market. It’s easy and fun to build with Minecraft, and the worlds created can by quite spectacular.