When it comes to bringing the very best digital experiences to students, teachers across the world, do what teachers do...make “it” work. As a teacher, I would splice, dice, copy (usually legally), recreate, and even reinvent pieces of content here with pieces of content there. And as many teachers still do today, I was more than willing to do that. But, over time, something eventually began to give. Perhaps I was just getting tired. Perhaps it was because content, especially digital, improved dramatically. More than likely, standardized testing whittled its way into the ever-finite resource of time. Of course, now, educators have to weed through too many digital resources to ensure they are aligned to what we actually have to teach, developmentally appropriate, engaging to all learners, and assessable. This will most likely be the case with immersive experiences, perhaps it is already.
So, is there an immersive content "problem?"
Yes, but only if you are waiting for content that utilizes immersive technologies such as augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) in the humanities. Much of what is currently available to classrooms in augmented reality (AR) ranks high on the cool factor, does "okay" on the learning factor, but is low on content value for what students are actually required to learn. That’s assuming they even have compatible devices available. (See a previous blog post, Best Devices for Student Learning Through Augmented Reality Elusive to Many Schools).
Serve "It" Up with Stories
Over time, as AR/VR becomes commonplace in the classroom and the world around us, the cool factor will dim, and it will ultimately be the content that shines. Teachers will be looking for developmentally-appropriate, accurate, and flexible experiences that are engaging and compelling to today’s students. Interestingly enough, some of the best ways to do this is through the time-honored tradition of storytelling that taps into the brain’s emotional center which ties to long-term memory. It doesn’t take 30 seconds to determine if even our youngest, tech-savvy students are buying what we are offering them, and I hope they are, because their engagement and learning depend on it.
Let Humans Do What we Do Best...Create, Think, Feel, Inspire
With all of the advances in artificial intelligence and robotics, there is one thing we can’t build or code...being human. We can, however, try to create those experiences, and I believe some of the most powerful ways to do that is through augmented and virtual reality and storytelling. Not convinced? Watch this 2016 TED Talk by Chris Milk, “The Birth of Virtual Reality as an Art Form.” Even Dallas Mavericks’ owner and Shark Tank Investor Extraordinaire, Mark Cuban, in an interview with Bloomberg’s Cory Johnson stated, “I personally think there's going to be a greater demand in 10 years for liberal arts majors than there were for programming majors and maybe even engineering, because when the data is all being spit out for you, options are being spit out for you, you need a different perspective in order to have a different view of the data. And so having someone who is more of a freer thinker.”
Don’t take the word of this retired teacher, Chis Milk, or Mark Cuban. Experience what it means to be human using AR and VR for yourself. Then, take it to your students this fall. Watch their expressions and listen to their conversations. Use a formative assessment question to assess. (You can get some great ideas from Conversation Starter’s World: 202 Philosophical Questions).
Three Very Different Human Experiences
Hamlet 360: My Father's Spirit
What is the difference between justice and revenge?
East of the Rockies
Why is it important to remember/experience others' painful past experiences?
The Great Depression: Google Expeditions VR
How can experiencing someone's suffering across the world and/or time help us understand those who suffer today?
The Institute for Learning Perspectives, or Perspectives XR, is an educational non-profit dedicated to helping educational institutions use immersive technologies to teach the humanities.