Metaverse in Education: An exciting challenge to empower education.
How does the Metaverse change Education? Students learn in a different, innovative and exciting way. What impact does it have and what challenge does it suppose for teachers, parents, and kids in the future?
Teaching has always been a challenge. Being able to motivate students to learn, engage them in what is being taught and managing to make them want to study is not easy. Especially nowadays, in a world where there are more stimuli and some may say distractions than ever. Naming ‘cell phones’ as one of those stimuli is no longer valid, because mobile phones have countless stimuli inside them: social networks, games, trends, browsers, Ecommerce sites, movies, and we could go on. The same happens with many other technology devices, and this does not seem to be stopping any time soon, given that they keep creating devices, social networks, and so on. Psychology says that stimuli that have color are more attention-calling than those that do not have it, the same happens with moving stimuli in comparison with still objects, those that make sounds rather than those that do not. Technology has all of this, of course it will be more appealing for kids and teenagers than books or whiteboards. But what if technology could be used in favor of education? This is what is being done when the metaverse is being applied to education.
In Morehouse College, biology students are using virtual reality headsets to enter the human heart, build giant molecules and visit Egyptian pyramids without leaving their bedrooms, explains Emma Whitford in a Forbes’ article (2022). “Virtual worlds or metaverses are fictional constructions in which participants interact through self-created avatars trying to reproduce participation or real life in an environment of virtual metaphor without space and time limitations” (Checa García, 2011). In addition to being motivating and attractive, which may continue to be that way for a while (partly because it is new and innovative) and progressively go down as students get used to it, this tool enables pupils to learn in a much more visual, interactive and realistic way. When many of us were younger and the biology teacher explained the different parts of the cell, drew it on the whiteboard and asked us if we had any doubts, those were all the tools we had to understand it. Some of us grew and learned when the Internet already existed and could search images of the cell to get the idea a little better. With virtual reality, students can literally interact with what they are learning, see it as if they had it in front of them, touch it, and so on. Understanding how this tool may change learning processes and psychology of learning is still a long way to go. Does this way of learning fix knowledge in memory in a more lasting way? How does the human span of attention work in the metaverse? Is it the same? Does it change?
Another aspect we may question is how this will change the way kids interact with the world. If there is a virtual world where everything is so exciting and innovative, that has so much power to enthusiast and attract, what does the real and normal world have left? What does it have to offer to these children? How will kids cope with the boredom, less attractive and exciting aspects of the real world? Parents have an important challenge to face, for which we believe there are no absolute truths for answers. There is a challenge for teachers as well: How do they implement these tools? To what extent? As well as the challenge itself of learning how to use them and implementing them in their classes and lessons.
It seems that the metaverse, as Technology in general, has arrived to stay. As people and professionals, we cannot ignore it and live isolated from it, it inevitably impacts on us, more directly or indirectly. And the benefits as well as opportunities they offer are countless. However, we should not just use every new technology device or tool that appears only because it has appeared, it exists, it is innovative and many people are using it, we should question ourselves what impact it will have on our lives (positive and negative). We ought to question what effect it will have on children, the generations of the future, on their growth and upbringing. And look for the best way to use them, so that we can maximize their advantages -in this case to boost education- and mitigate their disadvantages.
Checa García, F. (2011, september). El uso de metaversos en el mundo educativo: Gestionando conocimiento en Second Life. Revista de Docencia Universitaria, 8(2), 1887-4592. https://doi.org/10.4995/redu.2010.6200
Whitford, E. (2022, september 7). El metaverso llega a la universidad: así son las clases en el mundo virtual. Forbes España. https://forbes.es/lifestyle/181603/el-metaverso-llega-a-la-universidad-asi-son-las-clases-en-el-mundo-virtual/