Saturday, June 30, 2012

EcoMUVE goes real-world

It's kind of a magic story: Chris Dede created a virtual version of a real-world pond and loaded it up with learning projects and resources for students to explore ecology. Once that was successful in a pilot group of middle schools he responded to nature educators' criticism by creating augmented reality stations at the real-world pond he had originally based his Unity-created virtual world upon. Now students have the best of all worlds and those lucky enough to experience it, students and teachers alike, have gained a powerful set of experiences that they will treasure and remember the rest of their lives.

If I know Chris, he has some strong research-documentation practices in place that will benefit all of us who are convinced that the grossly outdated essential tenets of how we carry out education can, indeed, be changed for the good. Watch this video and catch info about the augmented reality piece after the jump.

Amazing, yes? It doesn't stop there, Chris has a well-funded team working on creating "kits" for teachers who want to explore creating both the virtual worlds and the augmented reality. His game-creation engine, Unity, is already available for free in its basic version. The company who created his augmented reality software will release a commercial version this summer. Want to understand that piece? Visit the EcoMobile website for that video. If that doesn't excite you, you may need to have your pulse checked to see if your heart is actually beating.

We need this. And no, I'm not saying it's the silver bullet, but it's certainly one aspect of future education we need to be planning for. As Dr. Dede said in his OLI keynote in San Diego last week, in 15 years even the poorest U.S. student will be coming to school with a device far more powerful than the most powerful supercomputer we have today. Will we be ready to deal with that? Not at this pace.

Let's step it up, y'all. Seriously. What about a virtual cemetery for a local history unit, tied to a local cemetery with embedded augmented reality (AR) resources? What about a recreation of a famous local building in a virtual world, with AR tasks and projects and assessments embedded at locations within the building? AR art history in a virtual and in a local museum?

It's coming, so let's be planning and creating. Over and out.

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