Do you know the feeling when your head is buzzing with ideas? It is hard to concentrate on one, for there is constantly another one jumping into your mind and you feel unable to keep the pace of thoughts. That kind of feeling I got at the Immersive Education Initiative London Summit 2009.
The Information was overwhelming and the presentations so interesting that the associations triggered, constantly navigated my attention into developing my own ideas.
In addition to the information synthesising the Summit – some presentation notes, the abstract of the program and Bernar Horan’s blog article about “Using Project Wonderland in your Organisation”, here I will describe my reflections about the future of education.
A question was asked, similar to: How does the “World of Warcraft” manage to dominate the attention of millions of people around the world, in addition to the time played, and motivate them to create all those fan sites, forums, wikis, tutorials and etc.? The players alone organise guilds, in which newbies are welcomed to join different quests, learn, play and help each other! As mentioned at the Summit by Shiv Rajendran in an example with another game – GTA 4, it is not necessary to read the hundreds of pages with manuals, instructions, tips, tricks and etc. The people start playing, have fun from the beginning and learning becomes a background process – not necessarily comprehended as such, but always present!
How should the universities of the future concentrate the attention of their students similarly, in the direction of real life problems and solutions? The answer would be hidden in a world, enabling learning by doing, learning by failing and learning by doing it again, supported by the best materials existing, accessible in a blink of an eye and on significantly lower time-, financial- and efficiency costs.
This may sound unrealistic for the real world, however seems inevitable for the virtual.
And it doesn’t have to be one single virtual world. There could be many, specialised in the needs of a particular target group. For example a virtual world purposed for the education of politicians, where everyone is playing different role, tackling the problems one reads in the papers. A possibility for reflecting on the actions taken could be provided through rewinding and role-playing different scenarios. Student groups from all universities and all countries could participate, playing the roles of all presidents, rotationally. I wonder what impact could this have on future politics? What if the next generation presidents of Russia, USA, Iran and North Korea, for example, are put as students in reality-reflecting virtual environment, substituting their roles?
Another example could be of a virtual company, where a student, who has already been challenged in the fields of marketing, controlling, human resource management and corporate finance, is appointed as a “CEO”, for instance, delegating fellow students from early semesters.
In terms of learning English, the Languagelab is already an example for a successful virtual school.
In such context the data, from all human interactions, dialogues, decisions taken and outcomes resulting can be bundled and used for the development of artificial intelligence (AI), based on the idea Jeff Orkin is trying to prove with the restaurant game. Thus eventually, through a large enough database much of the human decisions may be substituted by AI, enabling application of the process on a larger scale.
Interconnected virtual environments, such as Second Life, Cobalt, Wonderland, Twinity, Qwaq, ExitReality enhanced with geotagged, hyperlinked media and text objects, stored in digital repositories, accessible both from the real and the virtual worlds simultaneously will further develop to meet the requirements demanded.
Imagine the effect on assessment centers for both employers and employees, if companies and institutions are provided with information about the experiences all students gathered, the solutions they have created and the interests they have being able to specialise in. How motivating this would be for the students themselves? Or what economic and scientific value could be created in cooperation between companies and universities, in terms of actual real-life case studies and hundreds of virtual-life solutions?
To which extend will the active participation of the lecturers be required? Would you visit a lecture, if similar is available in some virtual world to participate in or on Youtube to watch, moderated by the best expert in the world, according to hundreds of millions of people, who have already made the experience? Or will the role of the lecturers mutate into the role of coaches, passively observing the learning process, guiding their students, providing advices or arbitrating outcomes, as Marcus Birkenkrahe once mentioned.
This are all questions, which will be answered with time and according to what I saw at the London Summit, for many of them it is not a matter of “if”, “how” and “why”, but a matter of “when”…
Now dear reader, is your head buzzing with reflections too? (:
Ivan – eLearning Team