There’s a great buzz. Or certainly a great hype. Virtual, immersive, and augmented realty is a transformative event in learning: not simply from an experiential view but, if we focus on design and pedagogy, an effectiveness one. The technology is not simply emerging, it’s cascading, with the price of both creative and consumer kit tumbling. But effective learning will not be caused by technology: it may be facilitated by it, if we understand the forces at play. If we understand just what changes in ‘learning’ as we move from ‘physical’ through to truly ‘immersive’ experiences.
Today, i’m preparing a session to present at the new Realities360 Conference in San Jose. The title is ‘The Psychology of Mixed Realities’, and it’s really a first draft of factors that we can build into an overall Learning Architecture. I’m primarily interested in ‘what’ is different in the experience of mixed realities and, crucially, how that influences our instructional design approach.
The Learning Architecture is an ongoing stream of work i’m developing, bringing together my previous books on ‘Learning Methodology’, ‘Social Learning’, and ‘Mobile Learning’, and attempting to create a holistic view of learning, with a focus on effectiveness and agility, achieved through the creation of spaces and communities to learn within.
For this session, i’ve sketched out six initial factors to consider: i doubt that these are the final ones that i’ll use, but that’s the joy of #WorkingOutLoud, i can prototype these, and see how the narrative shapes. The initial factors that i want to consider are: ‘Consequence’, ‘Neurology’, ‘Context’, ‘Perception’, ‘Geospatial’, and ‘Manipulation’. An eclectic selection, i’ll warrant, but they let me start the thought process. I’ll take a brief walk through each, to outline my thinking.
CONSEQUENCE is immediate within immersive environments: we take an action, and the consequence is as immediate as it would be in the ‘real’ world. I drop something, it smashes. Perhaps i should say ‘physical’ consequence is immediate: reputation based, or behavioural consequence may still be delayed. But there is an immediacy of consequence to action that reflects very closely what we experience in reality: this is fundamentally different from what we experience in eLearning, or abstract classroom based approaches. Immediacy of consequence impacts learning significantly, but unlike in the real world, we can make this fluid: we can play with temporal factors, slowing things down, and allowing us to repeat actions. So, for example, we can simulate experiences, but manipulate the flow and application of consequence. We can provide narratives to overlay it. We can shape the experience beyond what is possible in either classroom or real life contexts.
Our reflexes in immersive reality are more instinctive: the engagement of our vestibular system, the sense of movement and balance, the sensory overload, all of this makes it a more visceral experience, something that reflects in the fact that there is a persistency effect of our feeling: unlike much classroom based training on empathy, for example, experiential training on bullying in virtual environments leads to a persistency of empathy. This is one hint at the power of immersive approaches.
NEUROLOGY is a section in which i want to explore the underlying cognitive experience: what’s happening at an intrinsic, instinctive level, in immersive realties? Well, certainly our ‘experience’ is immediate. Super fast in fact. We make millisecond judgements much as we do in the real world. Unlike in, for example, branching scenarios, or roleplay, where we tend to have far more reflective space, we act more closely to how we do in ‘real’ life. We may be highly subject to forces of confirmation bias, be wilfully blind, we may exhibit cultural and ethnic bias in our decisions, made rapidly, according to cognitive processes of ‘normalisation’, as explored in the research around implicit association and unconscious bias. The lack of reflective time (unless we wilfully manipulate the temporal flow) leaves us subject to the same bias and prejudice we exhibit in real life.
CONTEXT is a fascinating aspect of mixed realities: because of the inherently artificial nature of the experience, we can precisely replicate the space, either to allow repetition, or to provide shared experience. Of course, the converse is true, in that we can deliberately vary the experience, in either expected, or unexpected ways, which is particularly important for developing resilience, creativity, agility, and collaboration. Or at least it is if we design it right! We can also prime people by pre-visualising a situation, allowing us to explicitly experiment with or test confirmation bias and presumption, stereotyping and categorisation errors. For aspects such as military or emergency service training, this can be highly valuable.
I’ll conclude this post tomorrow…