Leveraging Digital Depth for Responsive Learning Environments Report: Keynotes

KnowledgeWorks, a US-based company that is changing the education culture, prepared a report Leveraging Digital Depth for Responsive Learning Environments. The paper explores the potential for wearables, augmented reality, and virtual reality to help create more responsive learning environments that increase student engagement and enhance the personalization of learning. We are publishing a summary of the most interesting thoughts and insights.

Creating Digital Depth

Wearables, augmented reality, and virtual reality alter the physical world by layering data, computing, and connectivity onto our physical environments and adding “digital depth” to our physical experiences. Digital depth offers new kinds of spaces in which immersion, embodiment, contextualization, and self-awareness can be used to create novel or enhanced learning environments.

Over time, as wearables, augmented reality, and virtual reality continue to mature, they will become increasingly powerful. They will also merge with each other and with other technologies, expanding and deepening the layers of digital depth around us and potentially contributing to the creation of responsive learning environments that support students and educators in achieving desired learning outcomes.

To help education stakeholders consider how wearables, augmented reality, and virtual reality might support the creation and enhancement of responsive learning environments, five future vignettes, mentioned in a research paper, illustrate possible use cases for applying these digital depth technologies to learning. These future vignettes represent short stories, or mini-scenarios, depicting future situations in which these technologies could be applied.

MentorConnect: Responsive Assistance for Learners

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? This future vignette assumes that schooling has shifted considerably from standalone facilities to interconnected learning ecosystems involving many community-based resources and experiences. In it, a fourth- grade student uses information from a wearable device to help surface difficulty approaching a homework assignment. A linked app reminds her that she can ask for help and helps connect her with the relevant educator when she needs support.

Key Technologies:

  • A smart sleeve measures students’ biometrics to gauge their responses to various activities
  • A smart ID badge provides access to community resources such as libraries, maker centers, and learning hubs
  • A learning assistance call button alerts selected mentors and coaches that help is needed
  • Augmented reality earbuds reduce ambient noise

Learning Matrix: Digital Build Out Closes Resource Gaps

What if educators could help address resource gaps by using augmented and virtual reality technologies to apply a digital layer atop unused community spaces? This future vignette imagines that educators have used these digital tools to turn unproductive or abandoned buildings such as old warehouses, shopping centers, and public buildings into venues for compelling, high-quality learning experiences. In so doing, they are helping learners access resources, learning experiences, and specialist teachers that are often not available in poor or rural schools and districts.

Key Technologies:

  • Warehouse-scale, free-roaming virtual reality helps transform an old warehouse into a problem-solving science and innovation center
  • A virtual reality science lab enables students to work in a completely simulated and interactive science lab using headsets and either a smartphone or a smart watch
  • Through rockstar teacher holograms, highly experienced, expert practitioners and specialists provide support for learning

Holistic Assessment: Holistic Performance, Evaluation, and Reflection Support Deep Learning

What if students could practice key social-emotional and metacognitive skills in safe virtual environments, aided by digital depth technologies? This future vignette imagines that an assessment tool powered by augmented reality, virtual reality, and wearables is providing a way for students to immerse themselves in realistic future learning and work settings while honing their collaborative and creative practices and reflecting on their performance with trusted, knowledgeable professionals.

Key Technologies:

  • A collaborative augmented reality design platform allows a group of students from different countries to work on a shared challenge
  • Smart watches and smart wristbands track students’ breath rates and support their self-regulation by providing reminders to take calming, deep breaths when their heart rates escalate
  • Audio- and video-capture technology records the group’s activities for review and assessment

Changing Bodies, Minds, and Policies: Deep Empathy through Embodying the Other

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? This future vignette imagines that such experiences are helping education policymakers take more perspectives into account when developing policies. In so doing, it addresses the challenge that, despite well-intentioned policies, many aspects of the U.S. educational system remain poorly aligned with the realities of students and their families.

Key Technologies:

  • Immersive virtual reality narratives support embodiment of other identities, helping district- and school-based decision makers and legislators understand issues such as poverty and racial bias
  • Artificial intelligence (AI) programmed into the virtual reality system works with devices in the physical room, such as wearables and sensors, to make the user’s embodied experiences more realistic

Digital Graffiti History: Students Explore Their Community and Local Heroes

What if augmented reality supported students in overlaying their perspectives on social justice issues atop their own neighborhoods? This future vignette imagines that creating digital graffiti turns students into local historians and community storytellers. In it, three-dimensional overlays of text, images, and video embellish neighborhood places and people into a living history book that supports present-day social justice actions.

Key Technologies:

  • Augmented reality authoring tools allow students to create location-based triggers that tag places with local user-generated digital content
  • A wearable navigator downloads tours onto mobile devices, wearable insoles, or smart watches to support students in navigating local histories
  • Augmented reality tours and treasure hunts of local neighborhoods blend Pokémon Go-like games with locally written histories to provide ubiquitous learning experiences

In exploring technologies’ future potential for education, the paper presents a frame for understanding how such technologies add a layer of ‘digital depth’ atop physical reality. It also takes a closer look at each technology, with emphasis on its relevance to education. Building upon this analysis of the technologies’ potential relevance to education, five future vignettes illustrate some ways in which wearables, augmented reality, and virtual reality could support the creation of responsive learning environments.

Author: AI For Education

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