I had a speed tour of the Educational Metaverses and more at Day 1 of Edutech Asia where I was also doing a Show-and-Tell.
There was the conference on one side, sequestered from the masses by the most massive black curtain you would have ever seen, and then all around my Show-and-Tell stage was a full-on trade fair of educational technology companies: all the big names in learning management systems like Blackboard and D2L (Brightspace), familiar names like moodle and edpuzzle, google cloud storage, endless rows of projector companies, shockproof ipad cases for classrooms, gamification in education, interactive floor, block coding robots, AI tutors, AI courses, AI everything?! But let’s not get lost in this. To be frank, I did have a moment of self-doubt – “am i in a trade show and not a conference?” but I suppose this was all very strategically positioned on the part of the organisers. Who are the target audience who will buy these educational technologies or push for their purchase? Educational leaders, tech champions in their schools, etc. So why not get them to attend by organising several different types of speaking opportunities! I guess that’s why we’re here…
Here are my notes on three of the edutech products I saw which positioned themselves within the so-called “metaverse” space.
Universe by Viewsonic
The first one that I saw near the front was Universe by Viewsonic. How would I describe this? The product is like Spatial meets Zoom – for Education. You’ve got a toony avatar with feet and are assigned fixed roles as Educator/Student. You’ve got concepts largely popularised by Zoom like the sharing screens, meeting ID and breakout rooms. You can’t load in 3D models yet, but according to the people I spoke to, part of this is that users might not load properly optimised models (valid) and another concern was that user models would likely break the aesthetic of the world. If your class just involved slides, youtube videos, and a class discussion, this could do very well.
You might also notice that there’s a webcam on top of the screen and that is because the app is WATCHING YOU. The Educator has a special panel that allows them to monitor if the students are NOT in front of their computers looking at the screen. Additionally, when students are in their breakout rooms, it alerts them if their students are silent inside and not participating in a discussion.
My School by Inventis
The next “metaverse” is really a cute gamification of education. My School by the South Korean company Inventis is “metaverse platform for education” which I suppose I could describe as Animal-Crossing-meets-Scratch. This is targets a much younger age group as it focuses on topics like block coding which has been all the rage. In the example below, you use it to make the bus progress in the world on its merry path.
Sorry if it is quite reductive to describe these apps like this, but you probably instantly get what I mean when I describe the apps this way. As for my thoughts on My School, I think its almost too cute to work in the classroom as a serious solution. It does look like a full-on game design team was brought in to create the cute little interface. I suppose that what I am basically saying that I feel that the classroom has to look like a professional environment. At the polytechnic level I used to tell my students that our classroom was meant to be a rehearsal for professional interactions in the real world, so this idea also should dictate how they dress (as the Singaporean teacherism goes: “plz we are not in a fish market”), how they carry themselves and ought to speak to one another with respect. Anyway, where could i imagine My School fitting in? Maybe in private learning centres and afterschool activities, to expose very young school going children to block coding concepts.
Metaversity / Meta.camp by there
Finally, I saw Metaversity which is powered by “there“. This is another South Korean metaverse company which aims to let users “build school, meet friends, hold meetings, and watch great concerts” in the metaverse. It seems they just hosted an online event called 2022 Koreaz Global Festival in mid October.
(Considering Pluritopia was also a collaboration with many South Koreans, it seems like the South Koreans had a lot of metaverse stuff going on in the month of October!)
If you’re a teacher or educator, is the immersivity of the educational experience important? Would you want to invest time and energy to teach through the medium of the metaverse?
Alright so that’s it from Edutech Asia 2022, till the next week!