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Essay from Joel S. Burma – Second ThePensters Writing Contest Medalist #2

Evolving traditional education into virtual reality classes has many advantages; however, it also has many limitations overriding the benefits and therefore it will not replace traditional education in the foreseeable future. Firstly, virtual reality classes would result in children spending more time at home by themselves with a mask over their head, rather than in a classroom setting surrounded by children. This may lessen their ability to learn how to work in groups and cooperate with their peers, which is a skill proven to be learned through traditional education.1 Secondly, as a consequence of younger kids having more technology, the rates of attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have steadily increased and this problem may worsen with the incorporation of virtual reality classes.2 Finally, this type of learning is more accessible to more affluent students, meaning lower social economic status (SES) families would not have access to this type of learning, further escalating the disparity between the rich and poor.3 For these reasons, traditional education is a more feasible option for students to obtain both school knowledge and the necessary people skills required in the workplace and everyday life.

Traditional education allows children to go to school and learn how to cooperate in a group setting with an adult and 20-30 other students. They learn how to share and use teamwork to work towards a common goal, which is a crucial life skill that may not be developed through virtual reality classes.1 Also, with traditional education, students may have the opportunity to be in the same class as a student with down syndrome or autism. This unique opportunity allows them to interact first hand with these populations and understand the vast diversity throughout the world. With the introduction and expansion of social media, children are spending less time in the presence of others, but rather in virtual reality.4,5 This has sustainably lowered the amount of close friends’ children have and intensified the rates of adolescent depression because children are not receiving adequate social interaction.5 Virtual reality classes may further exacerbate this problem as children would have very limited interactions with others and have fewer close friends.

The rates of ADD and ADHD have dramatically amplified in the last decade with the expansion of technology.2 This is a result of parents letting their children watch hours of stimulating television shows to keep them busy and entertained, which has been shown to reduce the ability of children to orient their attention and focus on a task for a duration of time.2,6 On average an adolescent child spends four to five hours watching television in a day.7 Virtual reality classes would only make this situation worse as there is a high probability students would be spending both their school day and evenings away from reality. This also means a reduction in physical activity as they would not be required to get outside and move, increasing the rates of obesity and not allowing the children to develop basic fundamental movement skills.8

Finally, virtual reality is not widely accessible to all students; therefore, it would most likely be used by higher SES families as lower SES families would not be able to afford this type of education.9,10 If government money and resources are put into virtual reality classes and traditional education is overlooked, lower SES families will be more impacted by this decision3. The more affluent would receive the best education; whereas, the less affluent would be forced to a second tier form of education, further amplifying the disparity between rich and poor, leading to further segregation and inequality.3,10

In summary, virtual reality classes have several advantages; however, the negative impacts strongly outweigh the positives. There are already too many problems in this world including adolescent depression, physical inactivity, obesity, ADD, ADHD, inequality, and segregation, and the introduction of virtual reality classes would potentially make these difficulties substantial worse. As of now, traditional education is the best way to go as children have to opportunity to learn how to interact with their peers and function as part of a team. It also gives them the freedom to make friends, create lifelong bonds, and learn about the vast diversity in this world.

References:

  1. Osumi, T. (2003). Teamwork and people power: Liberatory teaching in the elementary classroom. Amerasia Journal, 29(2), 92.
  2. Froiland, J. M., & Davison, M. L. (2016). Home literacy, television viewing, fidgeting and ADHD in young children. Educational Psychology, 36(8), 1337-1353.
  3. Publishing, O., Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, OECD iLibrary, & OECD. (2012). Equity and quality in education: Supporting disadvantaged students and schools. Washington: Organization for Economic Cooperation & Development.
  4. Kuss, D. J., & Griffiths, M. D. (2011). Online social networking and addiction–a review of the psychological literature. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 8(9), 3528-3552.
  5. Kraut, R., Patterson, M., Lundmark, V., Kiesler, S., Mukopadhyay, T., & Scherlis, W. (1998). Internet paradox: A social technology that reduces social involvement and psychological well-being? American Psychologist, 53(9), 1017-1031.
  6. Lo, C. B., Waring, M. E., Pagoto, S. L., & Lemon, S. C. (2015). A television in the bedroom is associated with higher weekday screen time among youth with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD). Preventive Medicine Reports, 2, 1-3.
  7. Boyse, K. (2010). Television and Children. Michigan Medicine.
  8. Bazar, K. A., Yun, A. J., Lee, P. Y., Daniel, S. M., & Doux, J. D. (2006). Obesity and ADHD may represent different manifestations of a common environmental oversampling syndrome: A model for revealing mechanistic overlap among cognitive, metabolic, and inflammatory disorders. Medical Hypotheses, 66(2), 263-269.
  9. Martín-Gutiérrez, J. (2017). Virtual technologies trends in education. EURASIA Journal of Mathematics, Science and Technology Education, 13(1).
  10. Rounce, A. D., Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives Saskatchewan Office, desLibris – Documents, & Canadian Electronic Library (Firm). (2004). Access to post-secondary education does class still matter. Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives-Saskastchewan.
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