Immersive, emotional, interactive experiences for deep learning

A friend of mine sent me the this link  last week that has since made it’s way around the internet (warning: do NOT click if you’re phobic of open water). If you haven’t seen this brilliant advertisement, check it out before reading the rest of this entry…

…ok? did you play? Have you caught your breath yet?

Immersive instructional environments like this truly drive a concept home. You can guarantee the next time I am on a boat and see a life jacket, I will be reminded of scrolling furiously for 3 minutes as my heart pounded out of my chest. Imagine if companies made ads like these for wearing seat belts?!  Or for drug and alcohol abuse awareness?

I have already lauded the promise of game-based learning in a previous post. However, I’d like to add immersive to my list of things that make a learning environment good. And – in addition to the learning benefits of a game-like interactive experience, technology allows us to develop fairly immersive experiences that are not easily accessible in real life, due to time constraints, distance, money, or simple physics. For instance, in playing the game Civilization, students are able better understand the factors that contribute to the rise and fall of successful and unsuccessful societies over vast periods of times. Miegakure is a platform game currently in development where you can experience a four-dimensional world.

Importantly, immersive experiences lead to better learning, with or without technology. I still remember the “Ellis Island” experience my Hebrew School had when I was maybe 11 years old, where we were herded into various classrooms that represented different parts of the journey many of our ancestors made on their way to the states and forced to make decisions that many immigrants make when coming to America.

How do these environments work? Vast research has shown that grounded cognition leads to deeper, more meaningful learning (i.e., learning that transfers to new contexts and is likely to stick around!). Grounded cognition rejects the idea that knowledge is separated from context in our brains. Rather, grounded cognition proposes that simulations, bodily states, and context underly cognition. Additionally, it is important to tie new information to prior knowledge in order to promote better integration of that information in the brain (which is how to make sure it stays and is easier to retrieve in the future).   Therefore, we should contextualize and situated action within relevant learning spaces in order to promote learning.

With platforms like Second Life, teachers can design their own immersive virtual worlds for students to enter and learn from, and I can only hope that the technology will improve. Can you think of a way in which immersive interactive learning has left a mark on your education? If you had a budget like Mariner’s Shelter did (the sea experience), what educational environment would you create?


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