The experience of learning and immersive technologies in the school of tomorrow
18 September 2019 | Written by Antonio Laudazi
How to bring a real innovation to the school system?
The beginning of the school year is always an opportunity to reflect on the real school and on what is possible, on what lies ahead in the future and what we are actually doing to achieve it. The theme is well known: our school is still connected to a model born in a socio-cultural-economic and technological context very different from today.
Technological, yes, because it is clear that in thinking of making such a complex system evolve one cannot help but also consider the aspects linked to the contemporary téchne, in which art and ability (in the classical culture the exclusive prerogative of the gods) ) are manifested by means of architects and artifices. We speak respectively of people and enabling technologies in every sector, which allow us to do things that were unthinkable until yesterday, beyond the value judgment that can be given.
Technologies, skills, school system. It is therefore a question of understanding how and when to place technology in an educational process so that it can improve and adapt it to the updated objectives of individuals, societies and humanity in general. At the same time, considerations on the new skills required of teachers (such as emotional intelligence), and new goals, such as the development of the child’s personal inclinations and vocations, including but free from a depersonalizing vision of the group or class.
And there is also talk of reacting to a predominantly indoor model of the ‘childhood, to educate immediately to protect the environment, and then, going up to adolescence, we face the knots of the relationship with the internet, with social media and how to develop the qualities / abilities sought on the market to secure a job.
Towards a new learning experience. Well, what is all this but a choral reflection on the experience of learning as a whole? Because we all agree in defining learning as a continuous experience, with the individual at the center, an individual who must be known and supported in his precious becoming (the various stages of growth) and not conceived as a larval version of the adult.
And then, if learning is a continuous experience, who is drawing it, with what skills and according to what criteria? And there is nothing to do, it takes this long preamble to be able to talk seriously about the school that will come and its technologies, so that the discussion does not always fall on the usual suspects, from the unfortunate case of the “tablet instead of books”, to on the whiteboard LIM, a shaky symbol of technological evolution at school. No, it is not simply a question of adding or replacing instruments. A holistic approach is needed.
Immersive technologies represent the most probable and mature integration in digital school innovation to date. Which means that among the many “devilries” spoken of, augmented and virtual reality are those that with relative ease could enter the classrooms today. It is impossible to make an exhaustive list of the possibilities of application, but let us assume that augmented reality satisfies an lack of magic and a virtual lack of empathy. Yes, more magic in school and more work on empathy.
The magic of materializing and manipulating digital objects from a parallel plane of reality. What would you do if you were a teacher? We can show the children any entity that does not exist or that would not otherwise be possible to represent three-dimensionally in a classroom. We can use these objects, play with them, explore them, walk around them. In short, more Hogwarts for everyone, but really. With virtual reality (among many things) we can instead see through the eyes of someone or something other than ourselves, to understand the world from its point of view.
Reflect: how much of our future is entrusted to the level of consciousness of the new generations? When to their capacity for judgment and choice, before their “technique”? The empathy we need is not a passing sentiment similar to piety: it is a deep and continuous connection with the other, whoever it is: another world, another living being, another place.
In addition, augmented and virtual reality can then take us to distant places, allow us to observe the world from a different scale, as if we were infinitely small (to explore its ravines) or infinitely large (for feel part of a unicum). Among the people and the experiences there are certainly objects among which the operators will have to familiarize themselves first of all: apps, viewers, projectors and good company are not always easy to use. This must be taken into consideration.
A careful planning of educational experiences will be fundamental. The contents must be part of specific educational projects and supervised by multidisciplinary teams. Security must guide a process of conquering trust: you will have to learn to trust and to rely on new technologies. If my child were to wear a visor, how can I be sure that that experience will be formative and not traumatic for him? And so, where can we start now to be able to successfully apply these technologies to school desks?
What’s missing. Basically, there is no exhaustive literature on the subject, which does not mean a real slow path of scientific validation, but at least the recognition of some fixed points: limits, risks, best practices. You can start with periodic meetings in the classrooms by qualified professionals, to meet a first requirement of approach and knowledge. Subsequently provide for a gradual but moderate incorporation of technology into study programs.
Secondly, there is a lack of professionals who have the right skills and who are in some way certified. Philosophers, computer scientists, designers, multipotentials of all backgrounds and professors with the right curiosity could equally access access paths to be able to apply and manage immersive educational projects.
And then they lack adequate resources, probably, but even before the political will to invest in technology with a long-term vision, not because it has to be done (see the compulsive purchase of equipment), but because it is part of a structured plan, in an evolutionary design, in an attempt to face a fundamental question: which learning experience does it take? will make it better? No more rich, more intelligent or more able. Just better.