What is the metaverse? The term was first used by Neal Stephenson in Snow Crash: the 1992 story of a hacker who travels from a totalitarian society to a virtual world called the Metaverse—a place in which his avatar is legendary. Today, we don’t really have a common definition of the metaverse, though many definitions point to a fully immersive internet where we can visit virtual reality and augmented reality, VR and AR, worlds through the use of PCs, smartphones, and headsets.
Despite the massive focus on business and gaming, some argue that the real story is that the metaverse will give students access to a better tool for learning. In the near future, we will see a huge improvement in how we teach STEM, history, social sciences, art, and languages. Imagine you’re a student. Picture yourself standing with your class in the school yard. You tune in on the “history reality channel,” and suddenly you’re surrounded by Neanderthals. They appear to be really there, hiding behind the park bench and passing your fellow students. Gradually, your school and the surrounding buildings disappear, and instead you find yourself surrounded by plants and animals that lived in Eurasia 60,000 years ago.
Multiply this kind of educational channel by 1,000, and you’ll find history lessons with dinosaurs or pharaohs, or STEM lessons with David Attenborough or with Marie Curie. All of these experiences can be shared globally, with the potential to make learning authentic—and most of all, fun. Though the examples are far from the classroom experience most students are accustomed to, this reality is not that far away.
To give an idea of what’s possible today, take the example of Aschehoug Publishing Company from Oslo, Norway. Together, Aschehoug and Ludenso are bringing textbooks to life by adding live 3-D models to print textbooks, allowing students to explore a topic in AR through their mobile devices. This allows students to explore countless abstract concepts in a more tangible way, such as showing the magnetic field around the earth, or conducting virtual physics lab projects. Another way of utilizing the potential is, as SAGE Publishing is exploring, to add a layer of audio on top of the book pages. This way nursing students can listen to the difference between a sick and a healthy lung while reading about how to use a stethoscope.
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