Around a month ago I blogged about Scott Klososky’s presentation on augmented intelligence and the impact this might have on schools.  Today I’ve been looking at a recent KnowledgeWorks report which focuses on how wearables, AR and VR might enable the creation of responsive learning environments.  The report asks 5 main questions:

  • What if wearables and augmented reality could help learners navigate extended learning opportunities by connecting with mentors and coaches wherever and whenever they were needed?  For example students could use wearable devices to connect with educators when they need support, such as difficult homework assignments.
  • What if educators could help address resource gaps by using augmented and virtual reality technologies to apply a digital layer atop unused community spaces? The proposal is that such spaces such as shopping centres and public buildings could be turned into high-quality learning experiences that all could access.
  • What if students could practice key social-emotional and metacognitive skills in safe virtual environments, aided by digital depth technologies? Schools could use technologies to enable  students to practice, develop and reflect on these skills in safe environments.
  • What if digital depth technologies could be leveraged to create immersive narratives enabling education decision-makers to “walk in the shoes of others” in order to increase empathy for the students and families whom their decisions affect? Well designed immersive experiences may increase opportunities for empathy and perspective-building among administrators and policy makers, leading to more compassionate, equitable policies that can help support increasingly diverse student communities.
  • What if augmented reality supported students in overlaying their perspectives on social justice issues atop their own neighbourhoods? Three-dimensional overlays of text, images, and video embellish neighbourhood places and people into a living history book that supports present-day social justice actions. 
The conclusion of this report highlights that digital technologies do have the potential to create environments that respond to and support core social-emotional skills and cognitive and metacognitive capacities, to develop practices and behaviours such as empathy, perspective taking, critical thinking, and self-awareness that will support their personal, academic, and professional lives.  However, for education to make full use of digital depth technologies, careful consideration should be paid to how wearables, AR, and VR are used.  In particular consideration needs to be made of equitable access, and of teacher professional development including exposure, time, and training in order to develop an understanding of how best to employ these technologies, including how to assess how these technologies might support learning outcomes and assessments. Other issues that schools will face are those around privacy and ownership of data.  Safety considerations are also important and teachers must ensure that these technologies are used in developmentally appropriate ways. There are already studies showing that exposing students to potentially violent or harmful situations using VR may be damaging to healthy brain development and can lead to anti-social behaviours. One of the downsides is that cyber-bullying and other forms of abuse could also take on new and more extreme forms.
A warning is also given to avoid using new technology in old ways such as “the creation of canned experiences that represent simply the next iteration of mass-marketed curriculum. Such powerful technologies can and should be utilized by educators to create responsive learning environments that optimize learning, not as a means of making education more efficient”.
Are these new technologies a bridge or a barrier to learning?  What do you think?

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