We are living through a period of technological advancement that makes the Renaissance look like the dark ages. And yet, despite the presence of interactive whiteboards and tablet PCs in the classroom, The fundamental pattern of education has barely changed in more than a century. In many ways it would still be recognised by the Victorians who invented it to prepare young people for the administration of the colonies and the requirements of the industrial revolution. With Human knowledge divided by faculty and subject it’s an efficient system. But it’s getting old, and it has 2 main problems: context and engagement.
Firstly, very often pupils do no not find it very easy to see the real-world applications of learning objectives that were only experienced in the narrow context of a lesson in a subject. We are naturally accustomed to seeing patterns amongst related concepts, like constellations in the sky, but it is very rare that lessons in different subjects are planned together to to allow related themes to be established amongst them.
Secondly, because subjects are taught separately in hour-long blocks to classes of 30, teachers have to constantly change tack during lessons to maintain engagement. We rarely allow students to enter a state of Csiksgentmihalyi’s flow because we must interrupt them every 20 minutes or so to keep the pace of lessons up, lessons that they struggle to engage with in the first place. A state of optimal learning is a rare thing.
Across the globe, alternatives to this enduring model of education are being tried. Problem-based learning methods are used to educate medical students at university. Inquiry-based learning programs have been used in schools, often in stop-the-clock cross-curricular projects, for many years. Few educational methods venture far from the established norms however, and at the start of the 21st century with the sum total of 5000 years of human learning available to each of us on a hand-held device, the Victorian model is showing its age.
What do children do when they are left to their own devices? Play. Play is how children learn in the absence of a formal learning environment. All juveniles mammals engage in play for learning.
Traditionally, before we had schools & classroom, how have we passed on knowledge and information for thousands of years? Stories. Stories and demonstrations, from Little Red Riding Hood to the Illiad, are how we’ve passed on fundamental truths for almost all of human history.
Anyworld is developing a series of story-games in which students are encouraged to suspend their disbelief and engage with a story-based context through high-tech immersive environments, state-of-the-art display systems and exciting stories. Learning objectives are scattered throughout these stories like gems in a river-bank. The teacher’s job is to guide the students through these objectives, whilst they draw and test their own conclusions, ultimately solving the problems set by the story. The stories mix immersive theatre, STEM concepts, ubiquitous computing devices such as Raspberry Pi and Arduino, with compelling stories featuring cross-curricular concepts based on real-world issues. Students are allowed to enter and maintain a state of flow to optimise learning and engagement. We provide portable immersive environments, software, graphics, hardware kits, stories and support materials. No more “why are we learning this?” much more “this is amazing”.
We’re really excited to launch today. Project sheets will be added very soon, with plenty more stories too. Stay tuned!