classroom to classroom and subject to subject—will demonstrate that these tools can complement each other. Such an approach is suggested by the Vanderbilt group (Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt, 1993); they argue that hands-on and anchored instruction techniques are complementary. They use videotape and videodisk segments to establish the story line, and then use hands-on projects for the students to construct their own understanding. Such a paradigm can also be explored in VE, with or without virtual replacement of the hands-on activities.

Effectiveness and Feasibility

The VE hypothesis for education is that, for certain purposes, well-integrated VE systems will achieve results superior to the use of conventional capabilities. The hallmarks of such success would be (1) significant improvement in students' learning and retention of specific skills and concepts, compared with their response to similar content presented without VEs and (2) significant increases in students' voluntary use of such systems, compared with their response to similar content presented in other ways.

Some reports suggest that the successful introduction of education technology results in a sustainable increase in the enthusiasm of students, which increases the overall chances for educational success (Office of Technology Assessment, 1988). Indeed, the popularity of video games and other such technologies among K-12 students outside the educational context strongly indicates that engagement with technology is not likely to be a significant problem.

However, the eagerness with which students embrace technology should not be taken as an unqualified endorsement of immersive graphics for education. Rather, some part of the enthusiasm may come from the novelty of the medium. It is hard to test the kinds of learning achieved from field trips to exotic VE labs for one-shot viewings of one's geometric models or virtual submarine voyages. What is genuinely problematic is the following issue: To what extent can educators design engaging VE systems (a relatively easy task) that also result in what reasonable people would regard as learning (a much harder one)? To answer this question, much more empirical study is necessary.


The concern about practicality is dominated by cost. A number of studies have established in specific contexts that computers can be cost-effective compared with other means of delivering instruction (Levin et al., 1984; Office of Technology Assessment, 1988). However, a number of other factors intervene to complicate their wider adoption by schools.

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