Thursday, September 17, 2015

Transformative Teaching and Scenarios: The Incredible Virtual Journey Continues

In the previous post I introduced a term that I called the "virtual interventionist" which describes a radical change in the role of the instructor and learner within the context of immersive E-Learning. I am of the opinion that for too long we have failed to make use of the great talents and gifts that educators have for making learning come alive. True educators are highly intelligent and creative individuals who love to walk down the road with students as they explore, question and challenge what we know about this brave new digital world. These talents and gifts have largely been driven underground by the imposition of a model of education whose goal is forced conformity to a one size fits all mentality, not only for the learner but also especially for the instructor This needs to change in order that we can achieve a truly transformative education environment.

The Virtual Interventionist As Scenario Conductor & Co-Collaborator

It is not very often that I would suggest that you take useful lessons from Hollywood when it comes to the design of immersive E-Learning scenarios but strangely enough, some dated movie block busters from the past were eerily predictive of the potential of real world problem solving scenarios set in a virtual reality environment. What we see in these movies are:

  • A problem based scenario
  • Collaborative actions in order to arrive at a plausible solution
  • Unexpected conflicting variables that highlight the re-evaluation of the problem and solution
  • Decision making that results in immediate feedback to the decision makers
  • Branch scenarios that develop and change how the story unfolds.
I must warn you that the following movie clip, which is from 2003  has the typical Hollywood hype to the point of being "cheesy". However, stripping away all the attempts to get people into theatre seats,take a good look at how well its fits the nature of a scenario of a real world problem based collaborative exercise where the collaborators act out a purposeful role that is of benefit to society. Naturally, the problem could be alot more realisic but the concept is viable.

Scenario Synopsis: Geophysicist Dr. Josh Keyes (Aaron Eckhart) discovers that an unknown force has caused the earth's inner core to stop rotating. With the planet's magnetic field rapidly deteriorating, our atmosphere literally starts to come apart at the seams with catastrophic consequences. To resolve the crisis, Keyes, along with a team of the world's most gifted scientists, travel into the earth's core. Their mission: detonate a device that will reactivate the core.

Another movie in the same mode that goes back even further, 1960's, is titled: "The Fantastic Voyage".

 Scenario Synopsis: The brilliant scientist Jan Benes (Jean Del Val) develops a way to shrink humans, and other objects, for brief periods of time. Benes, who is working in communist Russia, is transported by the CIA to America, but is attacked en route. In order to save the scientist, who has developed a blood clot in his brain, a team of Americans in a nuclear submarine is shrunk and injected into Benes' body. They have a finite period of time to fix the clot and get out before the miniaturization wears off.
 If the idea of miniaturization makes you think this idea really misses the mark, then you need to update yourself on recent research in the area of Nanotechnology and Robotic Surgery.

Now, take these scenario and visualize them in an irresistibly engaging immersive E-Learning scenario making use virtual and augmented reality technology where the characters are learners and you, as an instructor have the option of joining them as a co-collaborator or as the virtual interventionist who injects problem variables that result in the development of branch scenarios.

Within immersive E-Learning, if we start with sound pedagogy and harness the technology that is available to us, translating virtual real world problem solutions to the test ground of the real world problem solving arena will be facilitated. We will have learners who will be engaged with a purpose to contribute in real ways to the health of our societies.

One important consideration that should become apparent is that more innovative pedagogical practices will become necessary as these new designs of learning scenarios using augmented and virtual technologies take shape.

 Next.... what research has to say about innovative pedagogical practices in a digital world.

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