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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

The metaverse is here — but what is it?

Photo: Julia M. Cameron/Pexels

Educators will be teaching in the metaverse very soon, ready or not, write Brookings researchers in a policy brief.

The metaverse is “a 3D model of the internet” where people interact via their avatars,” writes Shamani Joshi on Vice.  It is “a shared virtual space that is interactive, immersive and hyper-realistic” existing “parallel to the physical world.”

The Brookings brief imagines a circular classroom of the near future: Students studying ancient Greece take a virtual field trip to Athens in 300 BC.

 Carts buzz by them, traders in marketplaces surround them and high atop the hill, they see — with their own eyes — the temples of the gods and the people who worship them. They explore, they ask questions, they ponder, they learn! . . .  they return to the present. The walls around them turn to images of brown dust in which they see ruined old temples and pieces of columns dotted along the ground. Each child is now given a chance to become the archeologist, to use her avatar to find the answers to the question of how we construct the past while nested squarely in the present. 

Teachers, social interactions and “emotionally laden interactions” are crucial to these immersive learning environments, they write. 

This isn’t the first time educators have been excited by virtual reality, writes Michael B. Horn in Education Next. He wrote about  “3-D technology in 2016. Second Life was all the rage.

Horn asks: “What’s different this time around?”

These days, “a virtual-reality headset is just a workaday accessory, like a computer mouse,” he writes. “But with it, students can ‘walk’ into different education seminars and co-working spaces for projects and experience a range of virtual-reality environments, learning applications, lectures, and more.” 

Horn describes some of the “dozens of metaverse-type experiments underway in K-12 education” and predicts that “a socially rich, immersive metaverse could, eventually, disrupt traditional, brick-and-mortar schools.”

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