Embracing the opportunities the Metaverse presents us could revolutionise the way we educate, writes Leon Hady.

There is a new digital reality on everyone's lips; the Metaverse. Being touted by Facebook as the 'next chapter of the internet', many believe that it is nothing more than a diversion to deflect away from the company's tarnished public reputation. I believe it is far more than that.

We mustn't overlook what an augmented world could mean for education. Everything, from the night's sky to a race car, will be transformed into a next-generation learning opportunity. The classroom could be transported anywhere from the Arctic to the Large Hadron Collider. Before we criticise the Metaverse, we must not forget just how revolutionary it will be for education systems, and students, across the world.

Since early 2020 global education settings have been adapting to change, with 91 per cent of students worldwide having their education disrupted by the pandemic. We reacted quickly, with remote working learning becoming the new normal overnight. As a result, access to technology became a right, not a privilege.

If we can embrace technology as a learning tool quickly in a pandemic, then we can just as easily become early adopters of the metaverse.

The term metaverse was coined in 1992 by science fiction writer Neal Stephenson. Today his vision is creeping closer to reality. The Metaverse is a digital universe that can be accessed through virtual and augmented reality. Not only will it involve entire 'virtual reality' spaces, the Metaverse will also allow a layer of digital information to be overlaid onto the real world though a set of digital headset or glasses.

This is a game-changer for education because, simply, the metaverse will allow anything to become a learning opportunity. For teachers, it will help break down the artificial siloing of subjects, a typical feature of our outdated curriculums.

For example, a teacher could show their students a race car. They could then display how it was built, how fast it goes and under what temperature and speed the tires can withstand. With such scenarios experienced, the relevance of key theories learnt in school take on a whole new life of meaning and relevance, while also allowing educators the chance to bridge gaps and teach nuance in the theory to action step that's always been missing.

Think this sounds like far-fetched dreaming? Here in the UK, Bradfield College's tech department and teaching staff took on the challenge of creating their own VR based teaching and learning scenarios and artefacts for History, Science and Geography teaching post-pandemic; allowing students to experience elements of these subjects in a detail never before achieved and students are hooked. It's happening already – the question is one of mass adoption and affordability.

Furthermore while the feedback from Bradfield's own students in the early stage of their VR venture can currently be called anecdotal, longer studies in Chinese classrooms has shown that VR use has proven to have huge impact in test result efficacy, where 'C grade' students using VR learning immersion outperformed 'A grade' students who did not.

This contextual learning experience will cut through the fields of science, engineering and mathematics. Instead, students will be presented with a real-world example that fuses all three disciplines into one, holistic, engaging learning experience.

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Education syllabuses have a perennial problem; they struggle to keep up with an ever-changing world. Many will remember a time when math's students were told there 'wouldn't always have a calculator in our pocket.' Little did they know.

The Metaverse can aid this problem. It will enable up-to-date, expert analysis to be embedded all over the real world. We could look up to the night's sky, and have Neil deGrasse Tyson explain the structure of the Milky Way. Expertise will come from anywhere, not just from textbooks and classrooms.

Yet it is not just the current curriculum that is outdated, but our ways of learning. Written exams are virtually useless at providing the practical education needed for a variety of vocational skills.

Imagine if, instead of a written exam, an apprentice could gain real, hands on experience from wiring a virtual plug, fixing a blocked drain or even performing an operation, all without the dangerous, real world consequences. The science is conclusive on this; learning by doing trumps learning by memorisation, every time.

As with any new technology, it is our duty as parents and teachers to exercise caution. Many parents may wonder whether the Metaverse will simply add more addictive 'screen-time' to our children's day. Yet this is a reason to manage our children's engagement with the Metaverse, and not simply ban it.

Take the internet; most schools and parents are able to place parental blocks on certain websites and set screen time allowances. There is no reason we cannot place the same controls on access to the Metaverse. Whilst we are aware of the harms of the internet, I believe that it has been a net-benefit for education across the world. The same will be true of the Metaverse.

Indeed, the generation being raised today are already natives to primitive forms of the Metaverse. Games like Minecraft, which encourage organic collaboration amongst anonymous users, have attracted some 140 million players worldwide.

Herein lies a key benefit of learning in the Metaverse; it can 'gamify' learning. In other words, the virtual, collaborative and task-oriented nature of the Metaverse will allow children to learn without them realising it, which is the holy grail of education.

Various scientific studies have repeatedly shown that learning experiences are most effective when they are fun. Gamification of learning is the future of education, so that is what makes the Metaverse a natural fit for the classroom.

The Metaverse is another stage in the evolution of the internet. The internet allowed us to have the entire canon of human knowledge at our fingertips. The metaverse could deliver far more to the students of tomorrow, but that's only if we let it.

Leon Hady is an award winning headteacher and contributor to BBC News and The Independent

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