The Metaverse: Coming to a School Near You
Updated: Jul 30, 2022
Facebook is the most used social network in the world with approximately 2.91 billion monthly active users. Last October, the company made headlines with the announcement they would be changing their name to Meta.
The name change was intended to launch the next chapter for Facebook (the company), and what founder Mark Zuckerberg defines as the “next chapter of the Internet” too. He continues by describing what he envisions this next chapter to look like, “an embodied Internet where you’re in the experience, not just looking at it.”
Welcome to the metaverse. Cue sci-fi music here.
I’ve always loved daydreaming about the future and ways technology might impact our lives. I expect it might be a result of watching far too many episodes of The Jetsons cartoon growing up.
Yet, all this buzz about the metaverse was giving me an image straight out of Ready Player One, a sci-fi film based on a novel by Ernest Cline and directed by Steven Spielberg. The movie takes place in a virtual reality simulation in the year 2045. It’s worth watching if you haven’t yet seen it.
But recently the metaverse is getting some buzz in education circles. I also noticed several large organizations were beginning to share how they would embrace the metaverse in their business strategies. And suddenly this virtual reality sci-fi world was right in front of us.
We can no longer ignore it.
So we’re digging into the basics a bit more this week. What exactly is the metaverse and how might it impact our future?
What is the Metaverse?
While Zuckerberg made “metaverse” a household name last fall, the idea has been circulating in sci-fi circles since the 90s. Writer Neal Stephenson is credited with coining the term “metaverse” in his book Snow Crash to describe a 3D virtual space.
Fast forward to 2021, and Zuckerberg shares his vision of the metaverse as “the successor to the mobile internet.” It will include virtual reality experiences for learning, working, shopping and socializing. Avatars will replace our standard profile pictures. And many believe it will become the primary way in which we connect and interact with others.
Learning in the Metaverse
It’s hard to imagine this 3D virtual world becoming mainstream, but that’s exactly what many are predicting. And if it really becomes as common as social media, our education system will be impacted as well.
A recent report from The Brookings Institution shares insights on what the school of the future might look like in the metaverse. They share a vision of this immersive experience in a simple example of how students might learn about the ancient world -
“...a timeline is projected onto the middle of the floor. Children whisk away their chairs to stand in the present, ready to move backward and descend into the year 300 BC—a year in which they will encounter a new reality. They enter the metaverse of Greek culture. Carts buzz by them, traders in marketplaces surround them and high atop the hill, they see—with their own eyes—the temples of the gods and the people who worship them. They explore, they ask questions, they ponder, they learn!”
Their story continues with students jumping back to the present and taking on the role of an archaeologist, exploring old temples and discovering relics from ancient times.
It is fascinating to imagine learning in this way. It reminds me of the popular Magic Treehouse books where Jack and Annie are launched into the past on various missions. And as this Brookings report aptly points out, teachers are still crucial to the experience to guide students through the learning process.
Our Kids Are Already a Step Ahead
This idea of the metaverse might seem a bit far-fetched, but the reality is our kids are already exploring these virtual spaces today.
Online games like Minecraft, Fortnite and Roblox have already introduced our kids to the concept of the metaverse. These virtual worlds allow our kids to create online avatars, socialize with their friends, and exchange services in an online marketplace.
Virtual reality experiences are also present in many schools across the country. VR headsets are used in classrooms today to take students on virtual field trips, conduct science experiments and to help students with special needs.
Join the Discussion
We have much to learn about the metaverse and how it will impact our daily lives. And as the Brookings report points out, one of the biggest challenges our schools will face is ensuring these new learning experiences are high quality, meaningful and accessible to all.
Is your child’s school using virtual reality in their classrooms today? We’d love to hear your story!
About the Author
Jennifer Larson is an entrepreneur, charter school founder and mother to four children. Connect with her @startupjen.