Bror Saxberg what next by RyanClayton


									                                                        what next

                              Full Immersion 2025
                                     How will 10-year-olds learn?
                                   BY GERALD HUFF AND BROR SAXBERG

   magining life far off in the future is the stuff                                  guided and encouraged by an avatar
I  of science fiction. Imagining life a few decades
from now, however, is a subject of serious inquiry
                                                                                      (an appealing virtual character oper-
                                                                                       ated by a computer) who engages
for military strategists, urban planners, and mar-                                      the student in ongoing conversa-
keters. Why not for educators?                                                           tion. In our example, Jevon has
    In the following pages, we sketch a vision                                            fashioned his teacher avatar
of learning that may seem “gee whiz” but which                                            from a character named “Yoda”
is grounded in technologies—for visual display,                                          he had seen in an old movie.
interaction, content creation, learning science,                                           As they work to mastery, stu-
virtual reality, and more—that exist or are in                                        dents can explore related side topics
development today. (See Technology Notes, page                                       via hyperlinks and interactions, while
83, for a sample of companies and products.)                                          the pacing and guidance systems
    We envision 10-year-old Jevon learning, in                                         ensure a complete curriculum is
his home, a history lesson that is suited to his                                       covered in an effective sequence.
learning level yet has the capacity to challenge him,                                   Using the tools of artificial intelli-
creates opportunities for interdisciplinary study                                       gence together with data gathered
of critically important content and skills, and                                          from watching this learner and
encourages independent thinking and exploration.                                          millions of others, the system
This 2025 immersive learning environment is not                                           over time comes to“understand”
unlike interactive globally connected games such                                           the style, capability, and learn-
as World of Warcraft, Second Life, and others that                                          ing history of each student, and
today engage children and teens in roleplaying,                                              uses that understanding to
strategizing, and mock battles. Students in each 3D                                          adjust activities and pacing.

Yoda: Good morning, Jevon.                                                                       Jevon’s Experience
Jevon: I’d like to get back to Dr. King’s speech.                                                Regardless of students’
                                                                                                 physical location, they
Yoda: Very well.                                                                                 can learn with friends
                                                                                                 and peers from around
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: Now is the time to make real the promises of democ-                  the world. Yan, an 11-
  racy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to              year-old girl from a city
  the sunlit path of racial justice...                                                           near Beijing, China,
                                                                                                 joins Jevon as he listens
                                                                                                 to Dr. Martin Luther
world speak, type, touch the screen, and use handheld         King Jr. deliver his “I Have a Dream” speech. Automatic
controllers to explore and become part of the eras and sub-   language translation enables the two students to interact
jects they study, interacting with real and synthetic peo-    in real time. Jevon and Yan position themselves in the
ple, places, and scenes.                                      crowd to converse with virtual characters in the audi-
    Within a wide array of these worlds, learners master      ence. On the next page, we continue the dialogue, imag-
common core sets of objectives at a pace that suits them,     ining how Jevon and Yan might interact with each other,
ILLUSTRATION / W/, CODEBABY                                                          S U M M E R 2 0 0 9 / E D U C AT I O N N E X T   79
     Jevon and Yan position themselves in the crowd to converse
     with virtual characters in the audience. They stand next to a
     man holding a sign that says WE MARCH FOR FREEDOM.

     Jevon and Yan: Good morning.
     Gentleman #1: Indeed it is.                                                                       Segregation         Selma, Alabama
     Jevon: What does your sign mean?
     Gentleman #1: Negroes are not truly free in this
       country. Where I live in Selma, Alabama, there are
       laws that keep us down, keep us apart. These Jim
       Crow laws say I can’t go to certain restaurants or
       stay in hotels. So that’s why I’m marching today, to
       send a message that we cannot be truly free until
       the injustice ends.
     Jevon: But, Yoda, why did they have Jim Crow laws? I
       don’t understand.
     Yoda: Remember, there was a history of slavery in the
       United States, and blacks were treated as property.
     Jevon: Yoda, take us back to the speech, please.
     Dr. King: We must not allow our creative protest to
        degenerate into physical violence.
     A man next to Jevon grunts some disapproval.
     Jevon: Don’t you agree with Dr. King?
     Gentleman #2: No, young man, I do not. The only thing
       the whites understand is force, the force they use
       against us.
     Jevon: Yan, what do you think about using nonviolence
       to protest?
     Yan: I’m not sure. I can see both sides of the argument.
     Jevon: Yeah, but when you know you can’t ever really
       beat the other guys with force, it seems like nonvio-
       lence makes sense.
     Yan: It’s just really hard to take the abuse and not
       fight back.
     Jevon: I know. It’s amazing that so many did it.                               Jevon
     When the speech and activity conclude, Yan’s avatar waves
     goodbye and Yoda guides Jevon through a lesson in math.
     Yoda: Jevon, how many people do you think were in the
       crowd that day?
     Jevon: Ten thousand?
     Yoda: You’re guessing. How would you make an estimate?                         Yan, an 11-year-old girl from a city
     Jevon: I can’t just count them all.                                            near Beijing, China, joins Jevon as
     Yoda: What about using a grid?                                                   he listens to Dr. King’s speech.
     Jevon: Ah, thanks for the hint. This is like that science
       lesson where we estimated how many flowers were in
       a field. Let’s see, we’ve got about 50 by 30, that’s
       1,500 grids times 100 people per grid is, uh, 150
       thousand people.
                                                                     with characters from the history they are studying, and
     Yoda: Not bad. How could you improve the estimate?              with the teaching avatar Yoda.
     Jevon: If we counted inside more grids and took the                After one set of objectives has been met, the system can
       average?                                                      use the same 3-D environment for other goals, such as learn-
     Yoda: That’s right!                                             ing to estimate. Any single objective can appear in many
                                                                     contexts, promoting creative and flexible triggering of
                                                                     ideas and skills, exactly how instructional expertise is sup-
                                                                     posed to benefit learners in the real world.

80      E D U C AT I O N N E X T / S U M M E R 2 0 0 9                                             
        08:25 AM 2-6-2025
                                                                         The National Mall, August 28, 1963
Jim Crow laws   Dr. King speeches          Black civil-rights leaders   Mahatma Gandhi    Nonviolence
                    Letter From Birmingham Jail

                      I See The Promised Land

                      ("I've been to the mountain top")
                    Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech

                      The Birth of a New Nation

                                                            Automatic language translation                Parents can monitor their child’s
        Graphic designers work with
                                                              enables the two students to               learning live (from home, work, or on
     archival photographs and videos to
                                                               interact in real time, even               the road), view samples of ongoing
      create rich, realistic 3-D learning
                                                             though they do not know each                  work, and access personalized
                                                                 other’s language well.                   reports on their child’s progress.

        Students can work together via webcam and avatar, all                     The system can be accessed anytime. Younger children,
     monitored and recorded for security and analysis. They                    teenagers, and adults all have different sleep and learning
     can work in groups of a particular age or learning level,                 cycles; a teenager may prefer literature discussions at 4 PM
     sharing and manipulating materials together, discussing                   and math at 11 PM. There will always be countless students
     what they are learning. The use of avatars may ease the                   available for collaboration.
     potential awkwardness of a particularly advanced 10-                         Periodically, depending on Jevon’s progress and needs,
     year-old, for example, working with older students in                     an educator-advisor or academic “coach” spends time
     some subjects.                                                            reviewing his results, monitoring his system usage (perhaps                                                                      S U M M E R 2 0 0 9 / E D U C AT I O N N E X T   81
  Technology Notes
  Growing understanding about how students learn, together with technologies that are already engaging children and technologies
  in development, such as those listed below, will enable educators to customize each child’s experience to optimize learning.
  Multitouch Displays: Microsoft Surface is planning to start with com-     Intelligent Software: MIT Media Lab is working on “intelligent agents”
  mercial applications but head for the home.                               that have common-sense understanding.                                       
  Jeff Han from New York University has started a company to market         CyberTwin is marketed as a “software clone.”
  his wall-sized multitouch displays.
                                                                            Converting Pictures to 3-D Virtual Spaces: Microsoft has Photo-
  Telepresence: Life-sized images in high definition for video conferenc-   synth technology that is starting down this path.
  ing.                                                                      UpNext generates 3-D city views from aerial photos.
  HP Halo.; Cisco TelePresence.
                                                                            Educational Simulations: Henry Leitner of Harvard University pre-
  3-D Immersive Environments: Second Life.               sented “Innovations in Online Education: 3D Virtual Worlds, Gaming
  The Sims game (sample movie from a contest). thes-                        and Simulation” at the 2007 University Continuing Education Associa-                   tion conference. See also “Virtual Reality/Simulations” by Nicole
  World of Warcraft.               Strangman & Tracey Hall, National Center on Accessing the General
                                                                            Curriculum, 2003 (paper).
  Collaborative Filtering: Google, Amazon, NetFlix, all use such
  systems to analyze taste and interest data from millions of people to
  make more accurate recommendations. Super Crunchers: Why Think-           Immersive elearning: Minneapolis-based elearning company w/ uses
  ing-by-Numbers Is the New Way to Be Smart by Ian Ayres reports on         avatars and 3D environments to create immersive learning courses
  the “crunching” of massive amounts of data.                               that help businesses simulate real-world scenarios in which employees
                                                                            can practice selling techniques and master social situations.
  Natural Language Processing: Dragon NaturallySpeaking handles   
  normal speed continuous speech dictation (converting voice into text)
  but does not “understand” what the speaker is saying. Truly conversa-
  tional systems are still years away.

targeting particularly difficult and important concepts and                 adjust the content (who sees what, and what they do) to opti-
skills for Jevon), and sending feedback to Jevon’s parents.                 mize instruction for each type of child. There is no “stan-
                                                                            dard” learning sequence, although each version targets the
A System That Learns                                                        same underlying objectives.
The system leverages data from millions of learners individ-                   Beyond creating content, educators participate in var-
ually experiencing thousands of learning activities each year.              ious ways: reviewing student performance that the system
Similar to how today’s Google, and                       has flagged as needing attention, giving one-on-one or
work, after each of Jevon’s interactions with Yoda, the system              one-to-many instruction, either virtually (mostly) or in per-
can compare his responses to those of his peers within this                 son for children for whom in person learning is optimal.
vast database. If Jevon had struggled with estimating the size              Teachers can take up roles within simulations or inhabit
of the crowd, the system would add this to the database. At                 virtual tutors for specific topics; they can also manage
the same time, the system would draw on information about                   “community time” activities, in person or virtually. Like
similar learners to help Jevon master the material; the avatar              today’s busy children, learners schedule real world social
would use an educator’s guiding question that had helped sim-               interaction into the school day or week. Kids from the
ilar students apply estimation techniques.                                  local area may play games and sports, practice music, or
                                                                            put on skits and plays.
Driven by Educators                                                            An education system such as we have envisioned here is
Educators create content and activities for the system based                closer than you might think. Growing understanding about
on the targeted skills and concepts in each subject area,                   how students learn, together with technologies that are already
what is known about how children learn (from neural imag-                   engaging children and technologies now in development,
ing and studies of typical development sequences), and                      will soon enable educators to customize each child’s learning
what is understood to be effective for teaching specific top-               experiences to make them more enjoyable and more effective.
ics (from deep databases of histories organized by learner
characteristics). The content is peer reviewed and field                    Gerald Huff is director of the Technology Innovation Group at
tested. As information flows in from hundreds of thou-                      Intuit, Inc. Bror Saxberg is chief learning officer at K12, Inc., a
sands of children, educators are able to see what activities                creator and manager of online learning curricula and programs
work best for children with different learning histories, and               serving both public and private customers.

82    E D U C AT I O N N E X T / S U M M E R 2 0 0 9                                                               
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