We live and work in a time where technological advances are moving as fast as the speed of light. As an educator, it is our duty to adapt and evolve at a comparable speed to keep our strategies relevant, and engage the current generation of learners. This looks like checking our twitter feed and notifications for the newest app or strategy. Spending our personal time collaborating with colleagues across the world. Creating podcasts like this to share insights and ideas. To become better versions of ourselves and fulfill our paths so our students may due the same.
Reid Hoffman, a serial entrepreneur and author of The Start-Up of You, has a podcast episode where he talks about living life in permanent beta. That the ‘you’ right now is the best version of yourself at the moment, and we should continue to be a work in progress, building meaningful networks, and learning new skills to increase our value. This couldn’t be more true for the 21st century educator.
Furthermore, teaching students to navigate digital realms and take part in meaningful collaboration through problem solving is at the heart of modern pedagogy. Technology has become intermingled with the art of teaching, and has become the arteries to deliver content, assess learners, and ease some of the load and accountability that weigh on the shoulders of teachers across the world. The internet has made this possible by making the world a little smaller with tools like Skype, Gsuite for Education, and social media, allowing us to tackle even the biggest of ideas And now we have VR.
In episode two, Steven asked you to “imagine the possibility of constructing new outcomes with “artificially intelligent virtual interaction” and joked he made that one up. I found out today that this capability actually does exist from Cathy Hackl, futurist and arvr content creator, and it is being called Reactive AI.
Again. The future is clearly now, and we have to continue to live life in BETA by BETAing this newfangled technology in our classrooms---by grabbing vr by the headset and finding ways to provide our students access and involvement beyond google expeditions, and beyond vr consumption. By providing feedback to developers on what these tools should look like, so we don’t recreate some of the same educational problems in the virtual reality that we have in reality. In reality our students can be anything. In virtual reality our students can experience anything….
Let’s look at how we can not only bring VR experiences to our students with the technology that exists now, and shift them to the role of creator.
Safety and security online have been issues going back to the beginning of the Internet. There are special concerns for teachers and parents that persist today as more and more people consume an ever increasing amount of media daily and participate in social networks. In a main quote in the book “Ready Player One,” the protagonist Wade Watts states...
“In the OASIS, you could become whomever and whatever you wanted to be, without ever revealing your true identity, because your anonymity was guaranteed.”
In Ready Player One, there is an anonymity that this guaranteed in the Oasis. In the real world, this is not the case. Many websites track you as you go from website to website with cookies. Even if your screen name is not your real name, there is a good chance that if someone wanted to find out who you are, they could.
Anonymity is also what helps people do something called trolling, hiding behind fake names to post negative comments. I’ve noticed trolling being a big problem since the first days of the Internet. This has been one of the main problems with the Internet.
Teachers must maintain professionalism in schools but also in their social media usage. There is a great responsibility that teachers and parents have toward guiding children in their usage of the Internet. Google has provided a set of learning modules around Internet Safety called ”Be Internet Awesome". Common Sense Media provides some good tools for helping to gauge appropriate Internet media content (such as movies or television programs), and offers suggestions for constructive conversation for parents/teachers to have with students. Still, as platforms and apps evolve, as educators we must continue to learn and understand these new platforms, their opportunities, and the challenges posed by them.
As a college educator, I have seen benefits to representing myself professionally online. Using twitter, I represent myself in my Personal Learning Network, and I also maintain a personal website. For older students with the right mentoring, sharing online portfolios can be helpful for getting into grad school or getting an internship.
Modeling positive digital citizenship can be a powerful tool. More and more there are resources emerging to help support the development of a positive digital identity. Understanding safety and security and internet privacy are elements of becoming an active digital citizen. I'm including a graphic from the DQ Institute that informs some of this work. Safety and security online are a component of digital citizenship. Also mentioned in the podcast is the The Social Institute, which advocates for the positive use of social media by providing guidance and curriculum.
As an optimist, I like to think of Virtual Reality as a second try at the Internet. Could we see Virtual Reality platforms where there is no anonymity in the future? What would that look like? Would this solve the troll problem if everyone interacting online was authentic and tied to a real world identity?
How can we learn from Ready Player One the movie, and have real conversations about security and safety with our children and students?
Check out this week's podcast to hear our conversation about safety and security as inspired by the movie, "Ready Player One."
One more thing...since we mention kid president in the podcast, here's a quick video of him addressing negativity on the Internet to help you #makeithappy. He's an example of a child on the Internet who is making a positive change in the world.
Largely debated and clearly not resolved, equity in education is an issue near and dear to many educators. From a high level, birds eye view, governing bodies do their best to address the needs of all students, regardless of social economics, race, gender and beliefs, with systems and procedures that attempt to address equity on a very broad scale. It is loosely these systems and procedures that guide the classroom educator and, at times, bind their teaching.
Throughout these systems and procedures, teachers are unapologetically expected to motivate and inspire their students to not just complete tasks but muster up the will to accel beyond what is asked of them, such as bonus question on a quiz. We differentiate our teaching tactics to account for inclusion so that all learners can, to the best of their ability, understand, process and retain the lessons being taught. So the question, what does poverty & equity look like in ready player one and what lessons can be learned by appropriately integrating new technologies like Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality?, might require an example.
Take for instance the need to complete a project. There’s this kid, the CKO, Chief Kid Officer of DigCitKids, @currancentral, who was asked to create a Native American village diorama in a shoebox. He asked his teacher if he could model the village in Minecraft. The teacher said no, the project must reside inside the shoebox. So he built the diorama in Minecraft but placed a description and a QR code that would take you to the Minecraft model, “inside”, the shoebox. He got an F. He thought outside the shoebox and used new and engaging technology to complete the assignment. I hope that as educators we consider the power of tools like Minecraft, VR and AR to inspire creativity thereby adding another option of expression for those learners these technologies resonate with.
In Ready Player One the book Cline describes in detail what the educational system on Ludus looks like. He describes a flexible and customizable learning environment. One that I think could bring equity to learning whether your connecting from an affluent or impoverished neighborhood. He describes the fact that teachers can instantly take students on interactive virtual field trips which provide high levels of immersion translating into better understanding of the subject. Furthermore, we can also imagine that students had access to visit historical events in high fidelity and full immersion. Imagine too, the possibly of constructing new outcomes with “artificially intelligent virtual interaction”, yes I made that one up, an experience that would place you in a place and time in history that you could interact with and examine how different choices might have changed the outcome of history.
In the book we see this type of technology used as Parzival is asked to complete a Flicksync of the movie WarGames. He is asked to recite dialogue as the character, David, and Parzival can deviate causing various changes to the Ficksync story and environment.
Virtual Reality clearly has the potential to challenge users, break social and economic barriers and enhance access by providing engaging equitable access to learning.
Thanks to our listeners for joining us on this journey. If you liked our conversation today, don’t forget to check out our other episodes. We also want you to join in on the conversation. Use #VRpodcast to ask questions or comment on VR, immersion technology, or even about The Virtual Reality Podcast.
First, players had to find the hidden URL in the book that took players to a newly developed Atari 2600 Game called Stacks, another nod to Wade Watts’ (the book’s protagonist) community. The second was playing a Facebook game. And the third was setting a world record on one of various retro games. What would the prize be? Sticking to 80s nostalgia, Cline revealed that the competition's grand prize would be a 1981 DeLorean, similar to the one used in “Back to the Future”. While not a DeLorean, Ready Player One also received prizes: the Alex & Prometheus awards.
The day after the book rights were sold, the film rights were sold to Warner Brothers. It would be another 6 years or so before the book made it to the big screen, but the wait was worth it. Advances in available technology made the film visually spectacular, and its release compliments the current state of immersion technology. Hardware companies are releasing virtual, augmented, and mixed reality-ready gear at an exponential rate while developers are liberated by advanced software like Unity, which just so happens to be free.
But there is also another sector where VR has been emerging more and more with the increasing saturation of technology…and that’s education. With more schools increasing bandwidth and investing into 1:1 programs, it is a breeding ground for immersion technology experiences. With this influx of hardware, software, and experiences, it is inevitable that education will feel the shift and need to be prepared for what comes with such great power: great responsibility (shout out to Uncle Ben). Students are hungry to pioneer in the world of VR, but administrators and teachers must consider the effects of its usage, both positive and negative.
Our team discusses the impact VR has on both of these fronts, business and education, and shares insights on what can be expected now and in the future. As for Ready Player One, it certainly will help infuse virtual reality technology in the classroom. We just need to be prepared for it!
Thank your joining us on this journey. We hope you come back and listen to future episodes. We also want you, YES YOU, to join in on the conversation. Use #VRpodcast to ask questions or comment on VR, immersion technology, or even about The Virtual Reality Podcast.