such as those provided by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (1989). The generational shift from emphasizing knowledge to emphasizing competence, represented by the National Council for Teachers of Mathematics curriculum and its siblings, has finally provided educational computing with appropriate subject matter and philosophical focus.

A similar evolution will be necessary for VE in education. A critical mass of competent VE programmers must develop and educators will need to work with the hardware and software over a period of years before clear directions will emerge.

On the technology side, no special issues stand out. This is partly because the specific requirements of VE systems in education cannot be articulated until we have a better understanding of the goals of those systems.

Although the technology research agenda for education is not separate from that of VE in general, a great many questions and issues for education research remain:

  • The identification and characterization of skill and subject matter domains for which VE-based immersion can be demonstrated to provide clear didactic advantages over equivalent nonimmersive presentations.

  • The relationship between immersion and nonimmersive representations within a given educational environment, as tools to help students understand their own learning process. Immersive presentations may be more engrossing and lead to intuitive understandings. Two-dimensional or schematic presentations may lead to better abstract understandings.

  • The development of a variety of means (user interfaces, languages, CAD tools) whereby VE environments can be easily expressed and constructed by lesson designers.

  • The development of concepts and tools (e.g., telepresence) that can be used by students to facilitate their own model-building within those environments and the educational significance of their use (e.g., as indicated by their ability to embody objective knowledge about the processes of science, economics, history, etc. in their models).

  • The educational value of role-playing adventure games, anchored learning, and other shared simulation experiences in fostering the development of analytical skills such as problem formulation.

  • The extent to which various features of the user interface can substitute for or enhance the interpersonal interactions among co-located team members.5

5  

For example, convolved sound, touch, and other sensory modalities and transmodal transpositions (e.g., a keyboard-driven speech synthesizer) may make it possible to get more involvement from relatively nonverbal people than would be possible in traditional in-person teamwork. Disabled learners could be involved on a more equal basis, when everyone is learning new metaphors for motion and control.



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