Guest post by Dr Micah Shippee
“During our World History lesson that morning, Mr. Avenovich loaded up a standalone simulation so that our class could witness the discovery of King Tut’s tomb by archaeologists in Egypt in AD 1922. (The day before, we’d visited the same spot in 1334 BC and had seen Tutankhamen’s empire in all its glory.) In my next class, Biology, we traveled through a human heart and watched it pumping from the inside, just like in that old movie, Fantastic Voyage. In Art class we toured the Louvre while all of our avatars wore silly berets. In my Astronomy class we visited each of Jupiter’s moons.”
(READY PLAYER ONE, Ernie Cline)
While a fictional-futurist account, Ready Player One by Ernest Cline references an important aspect of a successful, widespread educational VR… shared-experience. In each of the fictional high school courses found above, the main character attends virtual class and goes on virtual experiences with his classmates.
I just finished reading “Democratizing VR Collaboration: A Conversation with WorldViz” by Mike Boland, who begins the article by stating “One of VR’s killer apps will be social interaction — just ask Facebook.” The article focuses on a company WorldViz who are developing a VR product called Vizible to allow for:
immersive sales presentations and product demos with no technical knowledge,
Invitation to prospects to join you in VR
meet with prospects in a secure real-time VR environment, using your HTC Vive or Oculus Rift.
An interesting follow-up detail is that the product would also allow for “review conversations” in order to “develop effective follow-up strategies.” As an educator, who constantly reads articles like this with an instructional-designer frame of thinking, I see some very powerful educational applications for VR field trips where all students are immersed TOGETHER in the learning context and where a reflective review can occur to dissect both the content and the social interactions that occur in the learning.
Virtual reality and Augmented reality have come a long way over the past several years. In education we have seen applications which bring static papers to life and transport students to faraway places. Most of which is done individually, that is, the individual user on their individual device, visiting an individual place or having an individual experience. One exception to this individual experience would be Google Expeditions where students visit faraway places, together, through virtual reality with their teacher or fellow students serving as a guide.
Google Expeditions AR, currently in its pilot mode, is promising to offer a similar experience in augmented reality where students use selfie sticks with devices in a shared learning experience
Both Google Expeditions products embrace the concept of shared experience, a powerful way to approach learning pedagogy which leverages social interactions to promote understanding. Research around the power of shared-experience in education can be understood through Bandura’s (1977) work on the “self-efficacy.” Self-efficacy refers to an individual’s belief in his or her capacity to execute behaviors necessary to produce specific performance attainments. Self-efficacy reflects confidence in the ability to exert control over one’s own motivation, behavior, and social environment. This “confidence” comes from multiple sources which demonstrate efficacy expectations, often through shared-experience.
“Efficacy expectations determine how much effort people will expend and how long they will persist in the face of obstacles and aversive experiences” (Bandura, 1977). Bandura further states, “The strength of people’s convictions in their own effectiveness is likely to affect whether they will even try to cope with given situations” (Bandura, 1977). Therefore to further understand efficacy expectations, Bandura used the four major sources of information as shown:
The major sources of efficacy expectations elaborate on the power of shared experience in the form of seeing others fail and social persuasion to attempt a task. Seeing others succeed raises mastery expectations, likewise, seeing others perform threatening activities without adverse consequences can generate expectations in observers that they too will improve if they intensify and persist in their efforts. Finally, students can be socially persuaded that they possess the capabilities to master difficult situations by viewing other students attempt the same task.
Perhaps WorldViz’s Vizible will support a large scale VR educational paradigm-shift to allow for more immersive shared experiences. Google’s work with Expeditions and the soon to be released Oculus Go may provide affordable VR solutions for educational applications of shared-experience, VR learning.
We are a long way from Ernest Cline’s description of the OASIS educational system, and perhaps that is a good thing I am not sure we are ready for it. Here’s what Cline had to say about the educational system he developed (in interview):
INTERVIEWER: Are the schools on Ludus your ideal institutions? If not, what is?
CLINE: The virtual schools on Ludus were definitely my attempt to imagine the sort of school every nerdy kid would love to attend. A bully-free learning environment where only your brain goes to class, while your body stays at home. A school where every classroom is a holodeck, and no one ever nails you with a spitball in the back of the head. But the downside for a kid who attended a school like that would be the total lack of true human interaction and socialization. Navigating the high school maze of cliques, clubs, burnouts, and bullies helps prepare you for life after high school. In my experience, you end up using those skills a lot more than calculus or Latin.
The “lack of true human interaction and socialization” is perhaps the scary part of the future of VR in education. While seeking to leverage emergent technology to achieve educational goals it is important that we maintain our focus and design on harnessing the power of shared-experience for every learner.
Dr. Micah Shippee, is an innovative 'ideas' person who thinks outside the box. Micah wears many hats as a 7th grade Social Studies teacher and turnkey technology trainer. He regularly explores ways to improve motivation in the classroom and leverages emergent technology to achieve educational goals. Very early in his career Micah discovered the secret to increased student motivation, a more productive learning environment, a better fit for future job preparedness, all while achieving his mandated content objectives and goals... the secret? Effective and Efficient use of Emergent Technology.