We as the nation have swiftly been enthused from the Right to Education to the New Education Policy 2020 and now fluctuating in the revelation of Metaverse which is still in its infancy.
Despite the fact Metaverse gives the impression to be just a 3D virtual version of reality, there is much more to it.
It is not only within reach without moving an inch, but at a segment of the expanse it would cost to experience the same thing in reality. But the education sector is moving towards it, intensely to expand learning experiences for every student.
The idea of the Metaverse is not new, it was perceived prior in sci-fi novels such as Snow Crash by Stephenson, in 1992 and sketched some consideration with the movie version of the novel entitled Ready Player One by Cline in 2011 and the massively multiplayer online role-playing game World of Warcraft which engrossed the attention of millions in 2022.
But, when Mark Zuckerberg publicly proclaimed the Metaverse project in October 2021, Metaverse became a buzzword. Metaverse is a combination of the prefix “meta” which implies transcending with the word “universe” which designates a parallel or virtual environment linked to the physical world.
“Metaverse means a world in which virtual and reality interact and co-evolve, and social, economic, and cultural activities are carried out in it to create value.” This means the Metaverse does not merely union of the physical and virtual worlds; it is instead an endurance of the physical world in the virtual world to create an ecosystem that amalgamates both worlds.
Artificial intelligence, the internet of things, Extended reality (XR for short) – which incorporates virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality, brain-computer interfaces, 3D modelling and reconstruction, spatial and edge computing, and blockchain are the seven technologies believed to have the biggest impact on metaverse development over the next decade.
Where The use of Extended reality uses technology to create more immersive digital experiences, artificial intelligence technologies are more focused on innovative educational technologies. Studies confirm that the use of these technologies helps to improve the quality of education.
Many people including some educationists are worried about introducing AI into our education setup. They might perceive AI and XR as a threat that would substitute teachers. We certainly need policies on how AI can be used and how it cannot. Though, AI assisting a teacher would really be a blend that could drive our education system from offering an assembly line approach to forming a modified and personalized one.
We all would agree that we learn something best when we get to experience it. Actual practices are restricted to the idea and knowledge of the facilitator, and the classroom. But aided by technology, these practices could take an entirely innovative trajectory. Visualize reading about the solar system, and then get to watch planets revolving around the sun in the classroom through AR. Envisage being able to attend a famous speech of Martin Luther King through VR again and again.
Imagine our teachers can now take their students to Base Camp at Mount Everest with a series of highly immersive school trips with ‘Google Expeditions’.
One would contemplate that by blending AI and XR in teaching Learning processes, we are talking about heavy investments, getting a tablet for every child, that kind of thing. But we can even do without heavy investments. This can all be realized via Google Cardboard Headsets, single cameras and mics in a classroom.
While most people are persuaded by the VR facet of the Metaverse, I am personally influenced by the AI aspect of it, and the access this kind of intelligence would fetch.
To Redefine the classroom experience and Develop teachers’ capabilities we at SCERT J&K built capacities of 100 Master Trainers across the UT, who are proceeding with the mission of disseminating it further to the field teachers through 22 DIETs. These Master Trainers will be supporting teachers to use Extended Reality to make lessons more immersive.
Teachers have to use VR to create virtual field trips, letting students visit historic sites. VR helps learners approach their learning from a new perspective. Immersive technologies help students visualize different concepts, including molecule models and geometric shapes.
We envision our Schools using AI to provide more adapted learning experiences for students. The algorithm can understand a learner’s strengths and weaknesses based on how extensive they devote to a particular task.
The AI can then suggest a custom-made learning programme based on what the student needs to focus on next. Our Master Trainers are extending training to encourage students to tinker and experiment with coding, robotics and designing objects digitally. This liberty bounces them a channel for creativity and builds their competency with different tech tools.
Despite people’s apprehension, there will always be a place for the teacher. While technology can customize learning and immerse students, Teachers can also develop their capacity of using technology in the classroom by joining a learning group.
These learning groups bring together teachers from across the nations to exchange resources, lesson ideas and best practices for digital education. Besides, teachers can attend online workshops to develop their competency in different areas of interest.
Studies show that technology creates pedagogical opportunities and using AI and XR as technological tools can bring entertainment to education. Which can be called EduTecTainment. Different subject teachers can make use of the metaverse and attain edutechtainment in their classrooms.
For instance, in History – Any specific historical era can be reconstructed in a metaverse, where learners can go and learn about it in an immersive way. For instance, students can witness the French Revolution as though it is happening live. Immersive VR Education, produced ‘1943 Berlin Blitz in 360°’ uses real-life footage from a nighttime raid of Nazi Germany to help learners realize what it was like to live through a momentous event.
In Geography – Geography and Astronomy students can explore the solar system or different layers of the earth or the constellations through the hyper-realistic visual experience offered by a metaverse.
We can now use augmented reality to create a hurricane, then bring the eye and eye-wall of a hurricane right into the classroom so students can comprehend these destructive storms up close. Or students can take an AR tour of a beehive to see its inner workings and explore how the bees work together to support the community. EduTecTainment can also be attained in the classroom through various apps which allow learners to discover the universe using AR overlays of the night sky. With SkyView, anyone can point their mobile device upward to identify stars, constellations, planets, and even satellites.
In Science – Metaverse facilitates laboratory activities, allowing students to experiment in virtual Labs. For example, they can dissect a virtual cockroach to learn the anatomy of insects or conduct experiments on Newton’s weight, mass and gravity and other important concepts. I still remember when I was in school, we had to dissect frogs in biology class to learn about their inner organs.
That process was disgusting for us, and was pretty awful for the frogs, too! Now the ‘Froggipedia’ app allows students to explore the internal organs of a frog via the app’s AR technology. ‘Microsoft HoloLens’ has developed a way for medical students to learn about the human body using mixed reality.
Learners can flow through the bloodstream and even walk inside the components of the human body to comprehend anatomy and treat different diseases as well.
In Art – Students can closely analyze paintings by famous artists within the metaverse and feel inspired to create their own digital artwork. Steam’s ‘VR Museum of Fine Art’ allows users to view world-class paintings and sculptures up close without being pugnacious with crowds or protective glass.
Similarly in Literature – In a metaverse, a novel or a story can be recreated where learners can enter and watch the scenes as they unfold, helping them comprehend the story and relate to the characters better. The teacher can now help learners co-oping up with stage fright by ‘VirtualSpeech’ which will help learners improve their public speaking skills with immersive, realistic virtual reality simulations. One can practice a speech in front of a virtual audience before walking out on a real stage, one can now put on virtual reality goggles and do just that.
Extended Reality (XR) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are on the doorstep of education, and without any reservation, these will change how we teach and learn.
The learning space of the future will be a hyper-immersive practice that will supply an experiential learning environment through a purely digital ecosystem, nurturing teaching and learning that closely impersonates in-person interaction.
Whether unifying digital and real-world essentials with Augmented Reality, simulating absolute learning situations with Virtual Reality, or leveraging machine learning with Artificial Intelligence, the metaverse is composed to touch education at all levels, having a predominantly reflective effect on professional and continuing education as well as distance and lifelong learning with open, blended and online opportunities.
As education leaders and stakeholders, are we desirous and ready to enclasp these transformative teaching technologies?
The author is Head Department of ECT&CS at J&K SCERT
DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.
The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.