Cultural & Scientific Heritage

Manage your STEM lesson with VR or AR

Marjan Milanov - ESL Teacher at Dobrinka Bogdanović primary school

Dear Mr. Milanov, please tell our readers more about yourself and your professional background? 

I am an English language teacher from the city of Nis, Serbia. I have been teaching for 18 years. My primary field of interest is educational digital technology and I could call myself a tech-savvy. Apart from being a teacher, I am also a teacher-trainer. I am an author of several accredited PD programmes for teachers which promote the use of mobile apps in education, VR/AR technology and other types of edu-tech. I am a master-trainer with the British Council Serbia in the regional “21st Century Schools” project and a member of the national team of teacher-trainers within several nation-wide projects. I was presenter or a speaker at several national and international educational summits and conferences. In 2020 I won the award “the Best Educator in Serbia”. 

How would you best describe the education sector in 2021? 

I don’t know whether the term that comes to my mind actually exists (if it doesn’t, I will coin it) but I would say that the education sector is going through a “reflective fog”! The pandemic, social and physical distancing, online teaching represent the fog that still hasn’t cleared up. The fog made us slow down. It prevents us from seeing clearly the road ahead, from planning our route and preparing properly. At the same time that fog was “reflective”, because it showed us more openly many problems and issues that the education sector was or still is facing. We were going through a constant reform in the last decade or two, we were working on our digital competencies, but also on integration of other core skills into the curricula. The years of 2020 and 2021 tested the basis of the educational system, its flexibility, the effectiveness of the reforms. The new challenges made us stop and reflect on our decisions, and if we are wise enough, we will know what to do next when planning short-term and long-term goals.  

In your opinion, how can students be actively involved in the learning process? 

In order for students to be actively involved, they have to be challenged and motivated. They have to see the point, the benefit of being involved in the process. Twenty years ago, Prensky said that our students had changed and that students are not the people the educational system was designed to teach. Twenty years later this is more true than ever. If we want out students to be involved, we have to spark their curiosity, to empower them with a better learning experience, to teach them how to explore and understand the world around them.  

What are the main challenges when implementing AR and VR in the learning process? 

AR and VR are considered the fourth wave of technological innovations in the world of computing. Although the concept itself is not new at all, its practical availability and use in education sector is. Some people still think of it as something made for sci-fi movies, for gamers, as something unavailable and expensive for us and our classrooms. Also, this is not something physical that you can just bring into the classroom. Rather, you have to adopt and understand the concept, and since the concept is new, there is always the fear of something new, unknown that can rip us off our comfort zone.  

I thing teachers need proper information, more instructions and guidelines, they need to see more classroom-based examples, practical use for their subjects, available and free (or at least cheap) technology that can prove useful for them and their students. In one book I read one comparison that I liked a lot: using immersive technology in classroom is like rainbow. We know that there is an incredible reward at the end of that rainbow, but we are not sure where is the beginning of the rainbow, how to start the journey. 

Can you describe the most impressive technology innovations that will shape the future of education? 

Most new technologies take some time to make their way into education sector, if they do at all. We are still heavily relying on white chalk and green or black boards that were used 200 years ago (just don’t tell me that you have a whiteboard and a fancy colourful marker)! We have (partially) adopted PCs and the internet, but we are struggling with smartphones and mobile apps.  

For me, AR/VR technology, or should we call it immersive technology, is the cutting-edge technology that will develop a lot in the years to come and will find its way into many industries. It is innovative and impressive enough. However, I dare not say it will shape the future of education! Not because it doesn’t have the potential to do it, but rather because we have to want to use that enormous potential. The technology does not shape our system or our future. We do! The technology should not be our goal, but a tool that can help us achieve our goals!  

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