Today’s educational system is static, generalized and puts less focus on individual self-development than it perhaps should. To make matters worse, students often don’t understand why they are learning the things that they’re learning, which makes certain classes feel arbitrary and purposeless in the face of their personal ambitions.
Guest Article by Lucas Rizzotto
Lucas Rizzotto is an award-winning XR creator, industry speaker, and entrepreneur working on the the realities to come. You can follow his creations and thoughts on Facebook, Twitter, Medium or Instagram.
What could be done to fix these issues and take education to a new level? What could make education more exciting, fun and practical? I believe it comes down to three simple ideas (that aren’t new by any means) which can finally be fully explored with smart use of technology.
These keys are personalized learning, experiential learning and mastery-based learning. In Part 1, Today’s Problems we talked about the challenges of implemented these education concepts (we recommend reading it before continuing with this piece). Here in Part 2, Tomorrow’s Solutions we’ll explore a possible path for education in the future, mixing Artificial Intelligence, Immersive Technologies and several new design paradigms that could change education forever.
The Dawn of Immersive Education
Technology has continuously revolutionized modern society for the past two centuries, and it shows no signs of stopping — if anything, it’s speeding up. How we work, learn, play and connect with each other is redefined almost every decade, and much of it has to do with the advent of new computing platforms: first with personal computers, then smartphones — and now with Immersive Technologies.
What do I mean by Immersive Technologies? Virtual Reality headsets, Augmented Reality glasses and everything in between — if you’re new to these concepts, hop over to this article real quick, because they’ll be a big deal moving forward.
There’s no doubt in my mind that immersive tech is the world’s next big computing platform — it does things modern computers can’t do and completely redefines our relationship with information, much like the revolutionary platforms that preceded it. Suddenly you can physically interact with the digital world (with your actual hands) and have it live all around you instead within the confines of a screen — and while we’re still in its early days, much of the promise it holds can already be seen today.
When it first appeared, Immersive Tech was thought of as a gaming-centric medium, but ever since its mainstream introduction with the Oculus Rift, creators begged to disagree. Today we have a variety of VR applications focused around productivity, art, data visualization and much more. Similar immersive technologies like Augmented/Mixed Reality have also been on the rise, giving us new mind-bending ways to display and interact with information in our real world like it’s actually there.
The Microsoft HoloLens is a great example of this —now a two year old device, it’s still one of the most impressive pieces of technology existing today. Not only it can create holograms that look and feel real, the HoloLens understands your environment — it knows where your furniture is, your walls, and everything else, and uses that information to seamlessly blend digital and physical worlds into your perception of reality.
Immersive content is not bound by the laws of physics — educators can create ‘impossible’ experiences that engage students in all-new ways.
Couple that with all the other advancements the technology is having with hand-tracking, haptics and deep learning and you can see that it’s only a matter of years before we’re touching holograms in our own home with devices more reminiscent of glasses instead of silly looking headsets. This is huge. Immersive technologies are inherently experiential, built from the ground up to convince humans that what they see is real — at the same time, immersive content is not bound by the laws of physics, meaning that creators can orchestrate ‘impossible experiences’ at relatively low costs — be it taking the viewer to the moon, to a beach in California, or a castle 500 years in the past, all costs about the same to create. For education, this could be everything.
Biology, for instance, is usually taught through textbooks, slides and drawings. But some start ups like The Body VR are taking an immersive approach to education, letting you travel the human body in person and actively interact with it instead of just looking through images on a book.
Along similar lines is the start up Medivis, which is redefining anatomy learning. Usually medical students are forced to learn human anatomy through several illustrations, having to desperately combine all the 2D images they see in their head to attempt to get a sense on how it all comes together in three dimensions — but MediVis is building an entire learning platform that allows you to visualize the human body a fully 3D, life size, holographic format, accurately tagging every single piece of your body — no need for books, drawings, or expensive cadavers.
Other examples include MyLab (which I designed), a mixed-reality Chemistry app that gives students a holographic periodic table they can use to spawn and combine elements on the go, and Universe Sandbox, which allows you to navigate the Universe as you visit physically accurate star systems and also create your own.
Mind you, this is just the start, and most of these projects are being built by a small number of people without any external funding at all. Now, with only the work associated with creating a small 3D game, we have the ability to take students anywhere and teach them about virtually anything from a completely different and fully participative perspective. And because the cost of creating these experiences is so low, we’re bound to see a number of innovations in design and interaction that introduce new ways to learn we haven’t even conceived of before, especially as creation tools becomes accessible to the point that anyone can bring the experiences they imagine to life.
The beauty of software is that once you get it right, the whole world can have access to it. You just have to copy it.
In the long term, we’re looking at education being approached not as a series of bullet points, but as interactive worlds that students can navigate at their leisure, marking a huge design-shift for education as it proceeds to become more akin to entertainment than a passive obligation. Now, concepts can become characters, ‘exercises’ and ‘exams’ can be seamlessly embedded into worlds and storylines as activities, and students are free to literally explore and immerse themselves in the subjects they’re learning.
And there’s more: the kind of data you can collect from Immersive Experiences is the stuff of dreams for personalizing education like never before.Given the degree of creative opportunity and how immersive education plays with the human brain, I believe it’s reasonable to assume that immersive education will become the norm one day. A number of studies are being conducted today to assess the full effectiveness of this new approach, but the potential is here: immersive education can be visual, social, magical, interactive and emotionally engaging — all while it sticks to your brain like a fully-textured memory.