Virtual and Augmented Reality at School. Disruptive Innovation in Education?. Is it the Educational Community ready to redefine a new Educational Ecosystem?

The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination. “Albert Einstein”

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The future framework for smart digital education, leave permanently redefined from the continue impact of new technologies, communications and infrastructures development, experiences and case studies and last but not least international experiences from a more global perspective.

Virtual reality is not a passing fad, is not only a question around nice 3d pictures, disruptive words or video games…we are talking about the “Future of the Society”. Imagination, Innovation, Inspiration, Interaction, Interconnection and Improvement, a new paradigm pushing from the pillars of education “that needs to be agreed and adapted to the reality of each environment, preventing breaks and digital divides in access to knowledge and technologies that impoverish citizens and therefore to society.

Let’s talk about “Imagination”.

The convergence of digital forces such as social media, mobility, analytics, and cloud computing is driving transformation across industries as well as in our personal lives. Disruptive Innovation is making headway in this complex interconnected world, where the contribution and converge of creativity, imagination, knowledge, technologies, procedures and methodologies, is revolutionizing the world of smart education though a more global and qualified professionals scenario. It is not a question about technology, is all about a new way of learning: We need to reimagine the Education from a new perspective in a new complex context.

Let’s imagining for a while the “Year 2025”…close your eyes and think about how it looks like. Your thoughts are sorted and limited by your background, education, knowledge and social issues. But try once again with an open mind, and try to reimaging the world in 2025. Think about the new society needs and demands, the new citizen’s skills, the Environmental challenges, the new Smart Ecosystems, the Internet of things implications, the eHealth and Well-Being ecosystem…And try to find the best answer to your imagination. Do you really think we are on the right track?

What about “Innovation”.

If we wish to prepare a generation of citizens as entrepreneurs and leaders for the 21th. century who can face real-world problems, we must give them real-world problems to solve.

From my personal years of experience, I nurtured an interest in cultural heritage, topography, photogrametry, imagering and geography and learned a lot about ancient civilizations recreating Virtual Worlds of old cities, places and cultures. Similarly, millions of students have played with games and learned about the hazards of world culture. When we talk about the potential effect of virtual reality on education, we are talking about 4 main new concepts in education: 1) the ability for students to learn within immersive and transportive digital environments, 2) the gamification experiences of the learning process, 3) the process of learning by doing based in real experiences, and 4) the new paradigm where the student is in the center, not the teacher.

Some studies and early experiences have shown that VR is indeed a potentially transformative educational platform, where educators, teachers and students need to reimagine their new roles. Meanwhile, educators will have to learn how to best incorporate VR into their curriculum and class activities, while managers must create the flexibility for their teachers to learn and experiment. ¡¡¡This is the greatest challenge!!!.

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 Talking about “Inspiration”.

I have been involved in this technology for many years. In the early beginning it was focus on professional environment and technical applications. Very expensive, sophisticated and complex technology for common use. Now, thanks to the “Mobile Revolution” schools, universities and private training providers are using VR & AR in a smartphone environment, having an amazing impact on students’ learning experience. Examples of practice in video-game industry and higher education tend still very much to be centered on Engineering and eHealth. But I don’t think it will be long before we see more VR experiences being used across other industries and in a larger proportion of educational environments.

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VR and AR technologies offer new possibilities in the educational and professional training environment, allowing a greater involvement of students in their own learning context and a continue evolution of digital content and tools.

The teacher / tutor-student relationship is enhanced by the facilities that offer VR & AR technology when creating virtual communities and tools for use in the classroom in an effective, simple and friendly community. The efficient implementation of new technologies in old organizations needs to adapt methods and procedures in a new paradigm and changing the teacher/student role.

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Think about “Interaction”.

VR based on Actions Based Learning, is a new technology based training approach. Depending on the organization and training project to address, creates a matrix that meets the requirements for every action: which user profile addresses each action, which type of learning program, capacitive or training, the exchange of information and documentation to be used, the format and method to deliver information, the method to archive results based on Kpi´s and the best technology to be used in every action.

Nobody can realize how VR will looks like in 10 years, but one thing is for sure, VR is one of the big challenges for the next years. Almost all big players are making significant announcement every day, like Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Sony, Samsung, Huawei… The mobile virtual reality market is predicted to reach US$150 billion by 2020, and this will pit companies against each other as they seek to grow into these new rich and contextual environments. What’s next? It will be interesting to see how new players will respond to this new big challenge, how will interact with internet of things in smart environments, and what kind of Educational Ecosystems will be developed…we will see as main actors.

Making real impact on education “Interconnection”

Maybe there is a big pressure from big companies pushing the VR sector based on hardware platforms, new devices and gadgets. But what about apps and availability of contents?. Perhaps most relevant issue for next years is investment in “educational digital content”: games and experiences with educational value. In this new VR environment, storytelling plays a new roll and must be redefined according the new focus: “the student”. Contents must be well designed and ideally, including collaborative and social components. Here, there is much to learn from recent research into gamification of learning, fueled by the increasing availability of computers and devices in classrooms.

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Immersive Virtual Reality Education must be placed into a new context. For students of all ages and abilities who wish to learn through experience rather than memory testing. Using Immersive AR & VR Environments we can place students in any real world or virtual situation with an active role in proceedings through various tasks they will need to complete. Situations and outcomes will dynamically change depending on the students input and this will keep the student active and engaged throughout the lesson.

According some research and studies, students of all ages typically retain between 10% and 30% of that they read and see. Traditional educational materials fail to inspire and engage further learning with most students as it forces them into a form of memory testing rather than retaining knowledge through practice and experience. Traditional lessons are also taught through ridged structures that don’t change if repeated. This causes fatigue and boredom with less student retention. Interactive 3D solutions have been shown to increase student’s attention levels by 92% and increase test scores by 35% – while at the same time creating a new level of engagement for students and staff.

As an ITC & Smart Education Consultor with 25+ years’ experience integrating technology, it is exciting for me to see a technology that so quickly captures the attention of the students, motivates them to make the effort to learn the procedures, and then opens them up to the relevant content.

Surfing the Web
New Educational Open Spaces

Virtual and augmented reality is going to be a disruptive technology in education and we need to learn from experiences and permanently reimaging the context to make an impact on education. On one hand, virtual reality is already being tested and discussed all over the world through applications as diverse as training advanced medical students, in K-12 classrooms, and exhibits in cultural institutions and museums– virtual reality’s attraction is the immersive environment that it creates, and it seems intuitive that students are a perfect test case. But still there are a lot of issues that must be resolved: Standardization on devices, apps, internet access, availability of specific educational content, prices, stability of versions…

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Bring VR & AR experience to your school “Improvement”

So what are we doing about Virtual and Augmented reality in education?. Well you might be confused by the VR & AR related headline, and wondering why the classroom needs that. Six months ago, we launched an innovative project “Smart Education Labs” embedded into 6 Learning Resource Center. This was our pilot experience with the Ministry of Education of United Arab Emirates, and a lot of changes and improvements were applied in the meantime. Now, we are working on a brand new platform that will be soon available with a whole range of affordable and new services and accessible materials for different devices and platforms (Oculus, Samsung VR and Cardboard).

But I know this is not enough, we need to improve a lot. We are creating Workshops to train teachers as a key success factor to implement new technologies in the better scenario and learning from the best practices. And we need to share experiences with the educational global community, in a continue learning process to adapt technology and process to the learning programs and users demands.

We are working hard on developing specific educational environments, contents and experiences based on our previous experiences, and implementing all these case studies in our new platform.

Our focus is to implement Smart Education Labs as an Innovative VR&AR space for the Global Educational Community. This is just the very first step to the future.

Carlos J. Ochoa Fernández (c)

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