Thursday, June 7, 2018

The Holographic Classroom

In this article, game designer Sande Chen discusses what's available for teachers to give students immersive educational experiences.

In Ernest Cline's bestselling novel, Ready Player One, the main character Wade Watts describes his online lessons on the virtual planet Ludus.  Unlike the online courses of today, which mostly consist of videos, forums, and multiple choice tests, Wade's classroom is far from dull.  His World History class takes his avatar to Egypt where the teacher can flip through different time zones, showing ancient Egypt and then when King Tut's tomb is discovered.  He can walk through the chambers of the heart and the aorta or visit the moons of Neptune.

Though this seems like something out of the holodeck, we can already virtually enter space, go inside the body, swim underwater, and travel to distant lands.  Google Expeditions is available for teachers in VR and AR.  More than one million students in 11 countries have gone on these virtual field trips.

If VR and AR sounds too technically challenging, remember there's still MineCraft.  While the simulation won't be as immersive as VR or AR, students can still have the thrill of visiting different worlds.  Take a look at what the Tate Gallery did to showcase famous art movements like Surrealism.

Sure, none of these options have 100% sensory output or the classroom controls teachers would love that automatically warn disruptive students, but we can still bring excitement and immersiveness of virtual worlds to classrooms today.

Sande Chen is a writer and game designer whose work has spanned 10 years in the industry. Her credits include 1999 IGF winner Terminus, 2007 PC RPG of the Year The Witcher, and Wizard 101. She is one of the founding members of the IGDA Game Design SIG.


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