Benefits of Immersive Learning
2023-03-10 / Karrie Berglund / Interdisciplinary Teaching
It’s no secret that pandemic learning disruptions had a significant impact on our students. We see it reflected in our schools every day. There is spotty attendance, inconsistent work completion, and non-existent test preparation. But the evidence isn’t just anecdotal:
- Median achievement scores on the MAP reading test shrunk for all student populations. (1)
- Steep reading declines among 4th and 8th grade students nationwide. (2)
- Underserved populations saw a disproportionate impact compared to their same-aged peers.
Covid relief funds aim to mitigate the learning impacts of the pandemic. Unfortunately, not even record-level spending can resolve these educational setbacks. Students affected by unfinished learning need to re-engage in the learning process.
One effective way to increase engagement is to use immersive, interactive learning experiences. These experiences:
- Stoke curiosity with hands-on exploration.
- Appeal to diverse learning styles with a multi-sensory approach.
- Increase authenticity via experiential learning.
Keep Learning Student-Centered with Hands-on Exploration
Curiosity makes learning more fun and enjoyable. It also prepares the brain for learning. When students take part in something that stokes their interest, they are more willing to engage in the learning process.
Hands-on activities can spark students’ curiosity. It allows them to explore a new subject in a way that activates multiple areas of their brain. Their minds stay alert and focused on the activity, which improves their understanding of the content. It also fosters social-emotional learning skills by providing opportunities for discussion and diplomacy.
Hands-on activities for the English Language Arts (ELA) classroom could include:
- A “Seek and Find” alphabet hunt in a sensory bin.
- Using playdough to form letters.
- A reading comprehension question trail.
- A gallery walk or stations-based activity.
- Socratic seminars and debates.
Appeal to Diverse Learning Styles with a Multi-Sensory Approach
Today’s students are inundated with visual sensory input from screens and devices. We can pique student interest by tailoring their learning experiences to have a multi-sensory approach. Multi-sensory approaches activate more areas of the brain than single-focus approaches.
Many view ELA as primarily an “ears and eyes” activity. Yet research suggests that a multi-sensory approach can lead to better results. (3) A multi-sensory approach creates learning experiences that tie in multiple senses: see, hear, taste, touch, and smell.
Often, teachers are able to easily incorporate visual and auditory components to their lessons. English Language Arts teachers can craft opportunities to use the other three senses in a variety of ways:
- Touch: Arm-tapping, which activates gross motor skills, can be an effective way for students to practice blending letter sounds for CVC words (consonant-vowel-consonant, such as "cat" or "top").
- Taste: Letter cookies or crackers can be a fun way for students to practice letter recognition and spelling.
- Smell: Using scented markers to practice writing skills can help students associate letter sounds with a “scent” like “L - Licorice”.
Tailoring ELA instruction to a multi-sensory approach will appeal to diverse learning styles. When more students are engaged with the material, it will help improve student outcomes. This will lessen the achievement gaps that have been worsened by unfinished learning.
Increase Authentic Learning Through Experiences
Authentic learning describes “learning activities that are either carried out in real-world contexts, or have high transfer to a real-world setting.” (4) Authentic learning can be achieved in a variety of ways, including field experiences, labs, and simulation activities.
Authentic opportunities increase student motivation. The more relevant a learning experience is, the higher the likelihood of student interest and engagement.
There is no reason to ask “Why do we need to learn this?” with authentic learning because the activities reflect real-world issues and applications. Students are actively engaged in problem solving, deliberation, and reflection. These are real-world skills that will transfer into adulthood.
Authentic learning opportunities in the ELA classroom include:
- Writing to publish, whether it’s a paper-based student newsletter or a class blog.
- Bringing stories to life in a play.
- Engaging with authors online and in person.
- Presenting to an audience.
- Competing in contests and competition.
Authentic learning opportunities in the classroom will deepen students’ understanding of the content. It will also increase their engagement in the classroom. Students will appreciate the ability to apply their skills to real-life situations. This authenticity will make them more open to future learning experiences.
How Immersive Learning With Digitalis Can Improve Student Engagement
Digitalis understands that schools face many challenges. The impacts of pandemic learning disruptions have been significant. Now schools must help students rebound from unfinished learning and make up the achievement gaps.
Exciting, hands-on learning opportunities will help those students reengage in the classroom. The Digitalis planetarium systems provide immersive 3D environments. These experiences captivate students and adapt to their interests. This allows for deeper understanding and total student-centered learning. Students are able to participate in a dynamic, communal experience. It sets the foundation for future learning experiences to build from.
Digitalis planetarium systems stoke curiosity about the world around them. They use multi-sensory learning approaches to appeal to diverse learners. It’s not just limited to astronomy and the sciences, either.
Let's take an ELA unit on mythology. Teachers could start the unit by sharing that constellation myths originated from agricultural calendars. Then, the teacher could show examples of the constellations and their movement in the Digitalis planetarium.
Students will become immersed in an interactive experience that can't be replicated. They will be able to see constellations as ancient cultures once saw them. It will give them a deeper understanding of why people have consistently looked to the sky to explain the world around them.
Immersive, authentic learning experiences have the potential to help students close learning gaps. Engagement and interest are powerful motivators that educators can harness. Digitalis believes that every school should have access to such a powerful tool for exploring the universe and our place in it.
(1) COLLABORATIVE FOR STUDENT GROWTH BRIEF, Kuhfeld, M., & Lewis, K. (n.d.). https://www.nwea.org/uploads/2022/07/Student-Achievement-in-2021-22-Cause-for-hope-and-concern.researchbrief-1.pdf
(2) NAEP Reading: Reading Highlights 2022. (2022). https://www.nationsreportcard.gov/highlights/reading/2022/
(3) Why Multisensory Learning is an Effective Strategy for Teaching Students How To Read - Waterford.org. https://www.waterford.org/education/why-multisensory-learning-is-an-effective-strategy-for-teaching-students-how-to-read/
(4) Authentic Learning (Simulations, Lab, Field). (2014). https://ablconnect.harvard.edu/authentic-learning