School is a Virtual World

As you look above you, you see negative ions flying towards you, pushing away the positive ones, which look just like you. The negative Ions stick to you only from certain direction, as you merge into a molecule you start moving around space bumping into the other molecules randomly, but electricity being electricity you find yourself spending more time around negative parts of the neighboring molecules than positive ones. You are now part of a liquid droplet in a cloud ready to be dropped down on earth.

How awesome would it be if you learned about condensation and cloud formation this way? would you care more about condensation if it was happening to you? if you were the hydrogen atom? I think the answer to this is yes! and Virtual Reality (VR) could potentially make this a reality. Jaron Lanier talks about this amazing possibility here.

Written above my desk is the phrase “A school is a virtual world”. Here’s what I mean by that:
You only truly understand something if you can use it meaningfully in a real world context. For example if you want to learn how to make rockets, reading books and passing exams is not the right indication that you can build rockets because the real world of rockets is much harder than that! On the other hand going out and trying to build an actual rocket before you know anything isn’t the answer either.

You need something in between which is not as complicated as the real world, but not as useless as just passing an exam, that thing is a virtual world where you can try to build rockets first hand and learn from trial and error, however the experience is guided to an extent so the student doesn’t get lost in dead ends. The experience becomes closer to the real world the more you learn.

This virtual world doesn’t need to be virtual reality or computer games, it could also be a physical setup aided by computers. The hope is that as computers become more advanced and intelligent they can guide and adapt to students in much better ways.

It is not just computers that need to become more intelligent, humans need to become better designers of learning experiences. If we create worlds where learning hard topics becomes intuitive and where sharing of insights is easier, our civilizations will filled with amazing human beings and our future will be very bright and colorful!

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