Thursday, September 17, 2015

Transformative Teaching and Scenarios: The Incredible Virtual Journey-Part I

 Choosing Technology for the Right Reasons

In the design of irresistible learning experiences, we need to remember the symbiotic relationship between pedagogy, technology and change management. An advancement in one element of this triumvirate will cause needed adaptations in the other two. The point that should be made very clearly is that smart pedagogy needs to take the lead. Advancements in technology need to be assessed in terms of how they may enhance the learning experience of the learner and the sobering question that needs to be asked is:

"Is the technology being considered the best means in helping us meet and extend the learning experience objectives or is this technology just not as effective compared to what is already being used?"

There is an unfortunate attitude that some educational organizations have that every technological advance that comes out needs to be incorporated and adapted to demonstrate that they are a 21st century school without considering whether or not they will help enhance effective pedagogical practices. An analogy is what happens when a new Apple IPad enters the marketplace and people line up for hours to get one. Please do not misunderstand me; Apple products are awesome in what they do but I question the necessity to go out and wait in long lines for hours when the Apple IPad that you already possess already does a magnificent job of meeting your needs now and even your future needs.

The point is that in immersive E-Learning we choose technology that will markedly enhance our ability to engage, inspire and deepen the learning experiences for learners. It should be chosen to push the boundaries of learning and skill development for the learner.

The Incredible Virtual Journey 

One of the key areas for expansion of immersive E-Learning is to adapt technology to create a truly immersive environment in which the learner becomes the traveler with a mission. Pedagogically speaking the combination of experiential learning with problem based learning principles can be greatly enhanced by the virtual reality technology that is now reaching a stage of refinement where it can help create irresistible engagement and deeper sustained learning.

Credit: Collis & Moonen, 2002
The concept of using augmented and virtual environments to enhance immersive E-Learning is now becoming more and more of a reality thanks to advancements in these technologies.
Remember! In order for these technologies to be useful, they must be able to demonstrate that they help enhance, extend and empower pedagogical practices in a transformative manner. In order for learning experiences to be irresistibly engaging and lead to deeper sustained learning they must satisfy certain requirements which have been outlined in previous posts.

Educator and Learners As Agents of Change

 In immersive E-Learning using augmented and virtual technology, the roles of educators, trainers, and learners radically change, but in a good way. The educator/ trainer becomes what I would term a "virtual interventionist". Within this role as an agent of change, you would have the following possibilities:

  • virtual interventionist as an academic guide or mentor within a scenario
  • virtual interventionist as a scenario conductor who directs and introduces challenges into a scenario dynamically(or while in play)
  • virtual interventionist as co-collaborator with the learner is a realistic problem based scenario
With respect to the first possibility, consider taking a 3D, first person voyage through the human body such as shown in the clip below:

Now, consider the possibility of creating a platform object that you and a learner can stand on as you travel through the human body. You, the instructor point to various points on your journey as you travel through 360 deg. space, as an avatar with the learner as an avatar. This type of scenario can be played out in any exploration oriented scenario in which a real place can be digitized into a virtual environment. It could be a virtual exploration of the archaeological site and dig of the boy king, Tutankhamun of ancient Egypt. The virtual interventionist could be a foremost Egyptologist.


In this case, as you can see, the virtual interventionist as academic mentor, is an interesting approach but it is missing a key ingredient, that being a real world problem that the learner must solve in a way that allows a personal contribution to new knowledge and skill sets. Including these ingredients further emphasize the role of agent of change for both the instructor and the learner.
Now, if your thinking that we are way too far away from this level of sophistication in immersive E-Learning, think again!
 A recent article published in LinkedIn by Mr. Rambo Levin described the combination of Moodle, a popular LMS with the Second Life virtual reality environment to produce a hybrid virtual application called Sloodle. When you consider the importance of the introduction of the Microsoft's Hololens demo using the popular Minecraft , the continuing advances in OS's for computing devices, the incredible virtual journey is beginning in earnest.

However, what about an actual dynamic, story driven, irresistible scenario that incorporates collaboration within a virtual environment?  These represent the next two possibilities listed above. The next post takes us into that realm.....

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