Saturday, May 31, 2014

Smart Pedagogy III: Time Portal-Journey to the Other Side

As I am sure that you are aware, the creation of one immersive scene that is faithful to an actual historical place and time requires that the scene be a detailed replica of what actually existed. The fact that the scene is immersive, 3D and can be interacted with gives you an idea of the level of complexity required. It is for that reason that we can't automatically jump into creating a complete world as exists in Second Life but must start with a single scene that will teach us the strengths and weaknesses of what we have created.

Credit: Cooldesign
In the example from world history, specifically, the Manhattan Project, the scene that could be created is the Los Alamos lab of Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer, circa 1942, located in New Mexico, U.S.A. Other characters present could be Enrico Fermi, General Leslie Groves, Albert Einstein. The educator takes on the role of Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer and is the person who directs the simulation. The educator introduces variables into the drama at different points as the students must solve real world tasks that were germane to the project. Types of variables could be like the following:

  1. General Leslie Groves, who directs the whole Manhattan Project, gives a news update that the Nazis have accelerated their time table for the development of the atomic bomb, which means that in order to beat the Nazis to the goal, the Los Alamos lab team will have x number of simulation time units that they have to come up with solutions, reduced.
  2. A funding cut has been introduced by the government which means the team must propose an alternate innovative solution to the current task that is cost efficient.
  3. A moral issue has arisen dealing with the high percentage of loss of life that will occur in civilian populations as a result of them completing their work. Team members are called to present well evidenced arguments for both sides of the issue through collaborative discussion. They will then be required to take a position. They will have to present their arguments to Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer(the educator) and be prepared to defend their position vigorously under intense questioning.
  4. General Leslie Groves  announces an news update that reveals that a highly secret project in which Nazi nuclear scientists are to be kidnapped and brought back to the U.S. has somehow been leaked to the international media. The "Alsos Mission", as it has been called is resulting in angry responses from some nations. The team needs to come up with an alternate plan to slow down the Nazi atomic bomb program.
The type of learning objectives involved in such an simulation involve such skill developments as:
  • creating effective arguments, researching verifiable evidence, evaluation of evidence with a focus on identifying bias, propaganda and simply opinion.
  • collaborative team work through discussion with focus on coming up with solutions that are innovative and apply to real world issues germane to the time period.
  • ability to take a position, defend it, anticipate counter-arguments and produce defences and effective communication of the position under the pressure of time and changing conditions.

The Oculus Rift is a virtual reality headset that enables its user to be immersed in a 3D world. Due to the fact that this technology is new and more than likely will become more streamlined and will synch with such virtual reality authoring programs such as Unity 3D or Unreal Technology, it is possible in the near future that this headset could be used in conjunction with the time portal simulations in virtual education courses. Students will be able to use it as easily as they use a mouse.
This is only the beginning of a new adventure in which the roles of student and educator will shift with a view on the future in a new culture of innovation.

There is still a very important question that needs to be answered if the amazing changes in education are to take place for the betterment of student learning and ultimately all of our societies. The question deals with change management. Are we ready to describe how we can make this work?
This will be the focus of my next post..........

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