Ruminating on the Immersive Education Summit

I’m still chewing on all that I heard, saw, and experienced at the Immersive Education Summit (#iED) this weekend at Boston College.  While my earlier blog posts on the conference were written while I was there, reflecting during the events, this one is written two days after (nod to Chris Briggs at Socialens for that insight).  An attempt to synthesize things… and so, here are my take-homes from the weekend:

  • Intriguing to consider the fundamental difference between place-based virtual worlds (like Second Life) and toolkit virtual worlds (like Cobalt) – what implications does that distinction have for communities of practice?
  • The importance of the new WebGL web standards which, according to folks at the conference, will be available in most browsers in the fall 2010.  This will allow for one click (no plug-in) entry to immersive 3D spaces.
  • The significance of 3D to education – on the radio, listening to James Cameron (director of the movie Avatar) describe the importance of 3D to movie making, he said, “it allows the director to fill the space around the movie viewer so that they are completely immersed in the experience.”
  • The vital importance of storytelling when constructing an immersive experience for students – a traditional tool/skill in a new world
  • The value in blending 2D and 3D worlds
  • The value of a synchronous, distributed experience
  • The importance of being nimble
  • We need to move beyond plumbing, pipes, and objects and think more in terms of constructing experiences for students
  • The need to develop habits of mind with regard to this new media, as opposed to being a tool-thinker.  That is, learn to be a smart innovator.  If we can develop good thinking habits about immersive education possibilities, we will be able to approach any new technology that comes along with a smart experimental method – and harness it.

And, for me, the grand poobah lesson of them all is recognizing the risk of totalism.  With a full banquet of possible virtual worlds at this meeting, I was able to remind myself that strict adherence to one vw or another is not productive.  The speakers and participants at the conference who were zealots for one platform/one choice sounded shrill and scary. While those that advocated exploration, investigation, and multiple solutions sounded sensible and compelling.  It’s not going to be easy to effect change in education with virtual worlds (it’s never easy to effect change in education) but if we insist on a single solution (Cobalt or ReactionGrid or Wonderland), we will lose before we even begin.



Filed under Teaching with Technology, Technology Trends, Virtual Worlds

4 responses to “Ruminating on the Immersive Education Summit

  1. mimi muircastle

    Reflection is always good and yours has brought some very valuable insight to what felt like a barrage of new data tumbling forth during the iED conference – even from afar!

    The sentence you wrote that struck me as most important is: “if we can develop good thinking habits about immersive education, we will be able approach new technology… harness it.”

    I think we also must clearly define what immersive education looks like within each educational setting that we are working in, ie, what is an immersive experience to a 7th grader in a life science class may not be the same as what is an immersive experience for a grad student in biological engineering. Considering our educational audience (student) must always come first, and then a search through our tool box of available virtual worlds will allow us to match the tool to the learner.

    And that thought circles around to your first reflection that it is intriguing, and from my pt. of view, critical, to identify the differences between place-based virtual worlds and tool-kit vm’s and carefully examine the implications for EACH community of practice.

    The tool-kit vm’s still seem to me to be very much like a closed door classroom in which the learning is narrowly defined by the single teacher which may be fine for some purposes but very limiting to others.
    The class you and Chimera are teaching would not be nearly as effective, or fun(!) in a tool-kit vm – you need the place-based vm to do the kind of exploring you have offered to your students.

    Still early here in the west and so back to my chai latte – thanks for the chance to share your reflections.

    • rheyden

      Well said, Mimi! Considering our educational audience must always come first. From their needs and baseline, we then derive the most appropriate/best vw solution. If travel, interaction, and plugging into the cloud is important to the audience and the objectives (as it for our SL Educators Group), then Second Life is the hands-down best platform. But if a contained, ultra-structured experience with maximum security is required, then a kit-built, completely private vw is the best solution.

  2. I’m only active in SL and RG although I have an OSGrid account. But I’m itching to get involved in other VWs and I think you are so absolutely right that the diversity of worlds is an opportunity, like the diversity of tech tools available at every level of education. There are commonalities in functionality, use and purposes that we can all get behind and it is creative invention that arises out of what we have now that will build what is available to us in the future. A slavish adherence to any specific VW or any specific tech tool can stifle the creativity we need to keep us moving forward.

    Great post!

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