Virtual reality textbooks that rouse imagination

Published on December 15th, 2018 by Debi Christensen

Virtual reality textbooks are igniting new interest in learning.

Educators have long lamented about the disconnect between traditional textbooks and learning. Writing, producing and marketing a textbook takes years. Once adopted, they have an anticipated life of about ten years, but a textbook’s shelf-life seems to continue indefinitely. Teachers often hesitate to toss out books, even if they’re no longer in adoption or relevant.


Our body of knowledge changes. For example, remember the demotion of Pluto from full planet to dwarf planet in 2005?  Some science textbooks still identify Pluto as a planet. Nearly 15 years later, many of those books are still in school.

Textbooks must be accurate and engaging. Often, they are not; however, new technology, in the form of virtual reality textbooks, may change all that.

VR textbooks bring excitement to learning

Virtual reality textbooks are poised to become a powerful driver in the textbook marketplace.


Already children can read the AR version of My Very Hungry Caterpillar. Readers use their smartphone and an app to nurture an egg into a butterfly. The same technology allows students to explore live volcanoes, witness the power of a tsunami, and explore other natural forces on Earth. How? Students read the book iStorm: Wild weather and other forces of nature with their smartphones.

AR and virtual reality textbooks to use now

Ask students what disappoints them most about reading a textbook, and they’ll tell you that their school books are unimaginative and boring.

Augmented (AR) reality and virtual reality (VR) textbooks are changing the way students learn about the world around them. AR/VR textbooks immerse students in study.

Livit Studios has developed an enticing learning platform, making the learning process about discovery. They’re technology to do it with. Using what they call their “secret formula,” Livit blends science, immersion, interactivity, gamification, and fun. The result is a collection of 3D holographic images that bring science to life in front of students’ eyes.


Similarly, zSpace offers hundreds of STEM and other learning activities that engage students at unprecedented levels of understanding. Think of the activities as chapters from textbooks. For example, students can explore the Hero’s Journey in an ELA class by manipulating the illustrated pattern and then creating their own pattern.

Sometimes description and a 2D photo isn’t enough. That’s where virtual reality textbooks like 360cities comes in handy. Students can take virtual field trips to places of interest all over the world.

Future implications for VR textbooks

Virtual reality textbooks enhance classroom learning by adding enrichment that would otherwise be impractical and costly. So far, the application of virtual reality textbooks in the classroom has been proven highly effective.


Content is still the most important aspect of a textbook. What if students didn’t merely read about history? What if they experienced it by witnessing the blitzkriegs during WWII or visiting China during the construction of the Great Wall?

Sometimes simulations are more like a gimmick using AR/VR technologies. The spectacle of seeing AR/VR should never distract from the content to be taught. Virtual reality textbooks have to be more than eye candy. They must be factual and enriching.

Virtual reality textbooks have not replaced classroom textbooks yet. One day, however, the traditional textbook may be nothing more than an antiquity.