The metaphysical sphere. No, it’s not the latest plotline from a movie based on a comic book. That is the topic that Mark Zuckerberg has most likely been discussing with you recently. But to be more specific, what is it?
In its most basic form, the term “Metaverse” refers to a version of the Internet that will exist when people can employ immersive technology to travel beyond their immediate surroundings. Imagine being able to stroll on the moon with your kids without them ever having to leave their desks or swimming through a coral reef without leaving the comfort of your living room.
Eileen McGivney, a researcher at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and a Ph.D. candidate, is a member of a team that is working on a new manual titled An Introduction to Learning in the Metaverse to assist educators in better understanding the challenges and opportunities associated with incorporating the Metaverse into the learning environment. McGivney taught a course on digital literacy last spring.
According to McGivney, “the excitement about the Metaverse has exploded in recent months, and this guide can help educators and educational technology designers grasp what the Metaverse’s potential is for learning as opposed to what’s just a gimmick.”
An Independent team of researchers, including McGivney, marine biologist and National Geographic Explorer Erika Woolsey, and historian and digital storyteller Kai Frazier, created the guide to offer practical strategies for educators to integrate the various tools that fall under the term “extended reality,” or XR, into the learning experience. Award-winning education experience company Meridian Treehouse produced the guide with support from Meta Education and Immersive Learning. The following are examples of immersive technologies:
- Utilizing a mobile device such as a smartphone or tablet to superimpose digital content over the real world is an example of augmented reality (AR). Imagine the filters on Snapchat or the games like Pokémon Go.
- Mixed Reality (MR) allows users to interact with both real and virtual items through a display worn on the user’s head. Students might use a scanner to capture a physical place and then insert an underwater environment around themselves, complete with fish swimming around them.
- In a virtual world, auditory and visual stimuli entirely supplanted the physical surroundings. This phenomenon is referred to as virtual reality (VR). Students can experience the human body from the inside out using a device called Oculus, a virtual reality headset.
There is reassuring news for anyone thinking that all of this is daunting.
“The Metaverse is not yet here, and even those who consider themselves experts do not actually know what it will look like when it does arrive.” There is still time for us to question and contemplate what we want the outcome to be.
Figuring out when and how XR can be used for learning most effectively is a unique challenge for educators. For instance, because the available technology is not designed for very extended periods, educators would be wise only to Metaverse Development Services that are half an hour long. Nonetheless, XR learning can be an excellent entry point into a new subject, helping to pique students’ interest in the material and encouraging them to continue their education.
In fact, a recent study indicated that using VR to take students on a virtual field trip to Greenland to learn about climate change produced higher levels of attention, enjoyment, and retention than peers who merely viewed a 2-D movie.
“Getting kids to care about what you’re trying to teach is half the battle,” says McGivney. “So VR, because of the way it situates someone in the environment and the power it can provide for storytelling, it gives someone an emotional experience,” McGivney continues. “This really connects to student excitement and investment.”
When might XR therefore be a useful tool for educational purposes? Using XR for experiences that would otherwise be too dangerous, impossible, counterproductive (for example, cutting down trees to learn about the effects of deforestation), or prohibitively expensive is a rule of thumb that teachers should follow. The acronym DICE refers to these experiences, and the guide refers to them as “DICE.”
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Here are some other things that teachers should think about when making XR learning more inclusive.
- What do you hope to accomplish with your education? Think about how extended reality might improve a learning experience rather than simply replicating it. Let’s say you teach science, and your students are about to learn about the tidal zone. What would you do? Virtual reality (XR) can be a terrific way to give your pupils the sensation of being on the beach if you live in a landlocked region, but if you live close to the water, going on a real-life field trip is still the superior choice.
- What do you think you’ll need? Consider the kinds of technologies your pupils will need, as well as the types of technologies they will actually have access to. You could create your own original XR material, which can be difficult, but as the book explains, starting from scratch is unnecessary. You can look into a variety of other resources that are currently available. The Educational VR Apps Database maintained by Stanford University is an excellent place to begin.
- What exactly do you anticipate happening? Instructors know how to measure learning outcomes in a conventional session, but you need to rethink what success looks like for an online educational program. According to McGivney, “We should think about the technology not to teach a specific topic but to give students an experience to realise the value in what they are going to study later.”