Emerging Technologies for Collaborative, Mediated, Immersive Learning
The familiar “world-to-the-desktop” interface provides access to distributed knowledge and expertise across space and time through networked media. Sitting at their laptop or workstation, students can access distant experts and archives, communicate with peers, and participate in mentoring relationships and virtual communities of practice. This interface provides the models for learning that now underlie most tools, applications, and media in K-12 education.
Emerging multi-user virtual environment (MUVE) interfaces offer students an engaging “Alice in Wonderland” experience in which their digital emissaries in a graphical virtual context actively engage in experiences with the avatars of other participants and with computerized agents. MUVEs provide rich environments in which participants interact with digital objects and tools, such as historical photographs or virtual microscopes. Moreover, this interface facilitates novel forms of communication among avatars, using media such as text chat and virtual gestures. This type of “mediated immersion” (pervasive experiences within a digitally enhanced context), intermediate in complexity between the real world and paint-by-numbers exercises in K-12 classrooms, allows instructional designers to construct shared simulated experiences otherwise impossible in school settings. Researchers are exploring the affordances of such models for learning in K-12 education (Clarke et al., 2006; Barab et al., 2004).
Augmented reality (AR) interfaces enable “ubiquitous computing” models. Students carrying mobile wireless devices through real world contexts engage with virtual information superimposed on physical landscapes (such as a tree describing its botanical characteristics or an historic photograph offering a contrast with the present scene). This type of mediated immersion infuses digital resources throughout the real world, augmenting students’ experiences and interactions. Researchers are starting to study how these models for learning aid students’ engagement and understanding (Klopfer et al., 2004; Klopfer and Squire, in press).
KeywordsEducational Technology Research Virtual Microscope Water Treatment Station River City 21st Century Skill
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