by Benjamin Herold
"In March, the social-media giant Facebook paid a whopping $2 billion to acquire Oculus VR, the Irvine, Calif.-based startup behind a new virtual-reality headset known as the Oculus Rift. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg described Oculus' device as a "new communications platform," akin to personal computers and mobile devices, that could have similarly far-reaching implications for gaming, entertainment, social networking, and classroom learning.
"Potential educational applications include virtual field trips, immersive digital learning games and simulations, and therapeutic experiences for students with special needs.
"But not everyone is buying the hype. Previous virtual-reality technologies got a lot of attention in the 1990s, and again in the early 2000s, before mostly falling flat, and public schools in the United States are not exactly known as hotbeds for nurturing emerging technologies.
"Virtual reality is super-cool, but schools are still struggling with the blocking and tackling of getting basic digital technologies in classrooms," said Trace A. Urdan, a senior analyst for Wells Fargo Securities in San Francisco who tracks digital learning investment trends."