The next time your child steps into a classroom they may be standing in a virtual landscape. While companies in Silicon Valley have dominated virtual reality (VR) in the gaming industry, the growth in its Chinese counterpart has it primed for many as VR’s next hotbed. While innovators in the US have focused on utilizing that technology in video games and entertainment, China’s VR market extends to the professional realm and is being used in real estate and schools. Some forecasts even predict that China’s VR market could be worth USD 60 billion by 2025.
Such organizations as NetDragon Websoft Holdings, a company based in Fuzhou, gained a lot of media attention in 2015 for their USD 130 million acquisition of British education provider, Promethean. NetDragon works in video game development, but has begun expanding its market into VR research, recording children while they use the technology in hopes that this information can help the company develop high-tech classroom tools to keep children focused while learning.
With all the hype built up about VR in China on the national scale, we thought it is only appropriate to explore VR innovation in the entrepreneurial city of Beijing. TechTrek, a Beijing-based company founded in 2015, aims to use the latest technology in the classroom to “improve the opportunities of the next generation.”
As the company focuses on new and growing technologies, TechTrek includes VR in their introductory course curriculum. We recently connected with Jordan Hung, COO and co-founder of TechTrek about the company and the future of VR in the classroom.
TechTrek’s newly opened VR center in Wangjing.
When and who founded TechTrek? What was its purpose initially?
TechTrek was founded by three passionate educators: Kit Harford (CEO), Jordan Hung (COO), and Ava Yu (Head of Operations). TechTrek was founded in Beijing in 2015 with a shared mission to improve the opportunities of the next generation. We believe the 21st century generation needs new skills and new approaches to education. We love all things technology, education, and innovation. Fun and learning are at the core of all we do.
Have you all worked on VR and 3D printing from your founding?
We have always kept in mind how rapidly technology is changing the world-creating challenges and opportunities. Since our founding, VR and 3D printing have been just parts of the amazing tech we introduce our students to. Our R&D teams are continuously looking to teach our students about the latest technology out there including coding, drones and electronics. I am sure if you ask me a year from now what tech we teach, we will have new exciting tech classes developed.
What is the aim of the TechTrek curriculum?
In an increasingly complex world, a genuinely innovative and enjoyable education is required to optimize the next generation’s potential. The aim of TechTrek’s curriculum is to develop 21st century skills: soft skills and tech skills needed to succeed.
What *soft skills* do you all hope that students and/or faculty will gain from this experience?
We don’t just focus on soft skills, but instead look towards P21’s Framework for 21st Century Learning: learning & innovation skills (creativity & innovation, critical thinking & problem solving, communication & collaboration), information literacy, media literacy, ICT literacy, and life & career skills.
TechTrek team members at their center in Wangjing.
Can you explain some of the other STEAM courses you offer? On your website renewable energy and drones are both listed as a part of the course offering. How are renewable energy and drones integrated into the curriculum?
We offer STEAM camps in addition to our normal classes on weekends at our center in Wangjing SOHO. Our camps range from a several days to week-long. When teaching technology it is important to provide authentic real-life context that students can relate to. In our courses about drones we share with our students the application of drones now and potential uses in the future. Of course our students fly drones too to complete delivery challenges!
The “bright light wall” at TechTrek’s studio.
What effects do you believe VR will have on schooling and education in China? Or in general?
We live in a digitally and globally connected world where learning takes place throughout life, in many places and spaces. VR is a useful tool that can provide students from around the world an enhanced way to communicate, bridge cultures and nurture understanding in a virtual space. Another application of VR in the classroom: Imagine students in distant parts of China are in history class reading about the Great Wall. Instead of looking at 2D images in their textbooks, the teacher can take the class on a virtual field trip where students engage in a virtual immersive environment. VR can also have an impact in the classroom because of its distinct ability to produce empathy in students.
What are the pros and cons to VR in schools from your point of view? Have parents, kids, teachers, or administrators expressed any concerns?
VR has tremendous value to education, but how the technology is used must be managed responsibly. As educators, we need to be and mindful of what experiences we choose to share with our students and ensure that they can differentiate reality from a virtual reality. Some parents are worried of the effect VR might have on their childrens’ eye sight, but it is no different than screen time spent watching TV, using an iPad or using a computer. The key is moderation and setting strict limits.
Does TechTrek partner with other groups outside of educational groups? If so, what are some examples?
At the moment we do not partner with other groups outside of educational groups.
For more information on TechTrek, they can be reached at:
Chaoyang District Beijing, Wangjing SOHO T1-B 2306 Wangjing Street No. 10, 100102
北京朝阳区望京街道10号 望京SOHO 塔一B 2306
Phone: 010-53674818 or 010-61842227