Andrew Goldman, professor of history at Gonzaga University, is using virtual reality to teach his students about ancient civilizations in his first year seminar course "Pompeii: Fact and Fiction." In this class, he takes students on a virtual tour of ancient Pompeii to show them how people in these ancient societies lived during day-to-day life.
Goldman partnered with a friend from Lithodomos VR, a company operating out of Melbourne, Australia, that works to provide students VR representations of ancient civilizations with scholarly backing within the archeological community. Goldman said that the outstanding detail of the technology is at a point where upper division, undergraduate students can really learn something about the ancient world.
“There is enough information there that we can really use those to explore ancient cities,” Goldman said.
The VR set up consists of a smartphone and cardboard goggles that you slip a phone into. Goldman said that the cardboard goggles cost less than a cup of coffee and the smartphone application costs $3 for a week and $20 for six months. This makes the technology quite affordable to many college students.
“Unlike the modern sites that are there today, these [realities are] reconstructed to the point where you can really talk about how people perceived ancient space [and] what life was like actually living in one of these cities,” Goldman said.
Reimaging an ancient civilization can be very difficult, according to Goldman. Most history textbooks only give photographs of an interpretation of the civilizations. With Goldman's VR experience, students can imagine these civilizations and use that knowledge to connect to the course material.
Goldman hopes to see students of different majors learn to work with each other to create a fuller understanding of the business and application of technology.
“Ultimately, what I see is an opportunity to train Gonzaga students to think across the different schools and disciplines,” Goldman said.
He envisions business majors, computer science majors and history majors taking part in a capstone level course where they collaborate to understand all aspects of the rising industry.
“A really well-rounded student, I think, can compete much better in today’s marketplace,” Goldman said.
Often when people think about VR, they think about its popularity in the gaming community. However, Goldman hopes to enlighten students on its potential use in many other industries, including education.
“In an increasingly digital world, I am hoping that it will open their eyes to the potential beyond gaming,” Goldman said.
Yolanda Gallardo Carter, dean of the School of Education, is excited about the use of this VR technology in classrooms, and is eager to see how these devices spread to other classrooms of different grade levels, subjects and socioeconomic backgrounds.
“There is a place for families who don’t have the resources to take their children to see different kinds of things,” Carter said.
There are some complications that could arise from this technology. Carter said that the digital divide that this could create for some students needs to be taken into account. Students might be disadvantaged and not have access to the same materials that other more privileged children do. A digital divide could disenfranchise students from succeeding in the classroom.
“If they did not have those resources and they could not access them, then we need to think about how we fund things in such a way where the students not only have the hardware, but they also have access to internet,” Carter said.
Carter said before technology like this is introduced into schools, there needs to be equitable access for all and that it is functionally possible to maintain equity.
Goldman added that equity is the most important thing to consider.