Face to face learning is often regarded as the gold standard of educational environments, even though other learning environments may provide distinctive value such as lower cost or greater flexibility/accessibility. This is not to say that face to face automatically results in good pedagogical outcomes, but there is something about the interactive nature of face to face learning that helps us to intuitively move past a shallow focus on remembering information, to growing the necessary gumption to question, think, collaborate and create.
iSee is an emerging software platform that focuses on enabling intuitive face to face relationship building and collaboration in the cloud. The transformational technology marries live webcam video feeds with immersive gaming engines to create an authentic reproduction of face to face gatherings online.
If you think of most of the things you can do in a classroom, you can probably to them in iSee. This means you can move your video avatar around to meet other people in the space, get to know them and discuss ideas. Mingle, have parallel conversations in small groups or move together into a large crowd listen to an inspiring talk or have a facilitated discussion. You can also share digital content with others including flicking files and presentations or your desktop onto a virtual wall for others to see - it's just like having an unlimited number of digital projectors in your pocket.
One of the great things that sets iSee apart from other social media platforms is that an institution can set up persistent virtual campuses that are open 24/7 and available to students where ever they are in the world. If things get too crowded.... just create more rooms at zero cost. Want to redesign learning spaces? Hire a designer and skip the construction costs. Better still, include real time use configurable options in the design so that room sizes and objects can be reconfigured on the spot.
Educational institutions around the world are spending vast sums on developing collaborative spaces for students to meet and collaborate. This is for good reason - peer networks and collaborative environments enable students to develop higher level interaction, evaluation and creative skills. Enabling spaces for peer networks also helps to support students in developing positive relationships with their institution.
Persistent online spaces such as the virtual worlds in iSee can play an similar role in enabling students to form new networks and peer groups to underpin their learning and student experience. Like physical spaces on campus, the important factor is that there is a co-owned space where students belong prior to peer relationship making. This is in contrast to traditional social media platforms that link members through existing social networks. That approach isn't so intuitive and effective for students who are often beginning new courses where there aren't any links to their existing social scene.
Co-owned spaces allow students to feel part of an institution even before they have met their peers. It gives them an intuitive right to be there without having the overhead of 'friend' or 'follow' requests. The live video avatars in iSee are labeled with the users name, which acts like an invitation to meet and mingle. Multi-talk, or the ability to have multiple conversations occurring in the same virtual space at the same time is enabled by spacial audio. This means that everyone's voice fades out with distance just like in the real world. So students that move around in the space to form discussion groups can talk naturally to each other without disturbing other groups in the same online space near by.
A critical part of the iSee education social media platform is that users only download the video of others that are within their field of view. This means that in larger online gatherings such as classes, students have only a fraction of the bandwidth needs and download usage of traditional video conferencing software. They get to choose who they want to see and talk to by simply moving themselves in the space, just like in real life. This feature is a key enabler of iSee for educational use as it lets students spend significant amounts of time in online video gatherings without swamping their wireless, home or office internet connection or download limit.
So what does this mean for flipped classroom?
We can think of the flipped classroom movement as a timely re-assessment of how different learning objectives are best achieved with the advent of new technologies. An important part of this re-assessment has been the distinction between synchronous and asynchronous learning. The flipped classroom model has had a special focus on how online tools can be used effectively to shift learning aspects suited to asynchronous learning outside of the classroom to free up the inherently more restricted synchronous time in class for more interactive learning activities.
What separates the flipped classroom model from online learning is a relatively common assumption that the synchronous 'classroom' part of the model is physical. This means that in general, flipped classrooms are a particular approach to blended learning, rather than purely online learning which does not require a physical classroom. This assumption that flipped means a synchronous physical classroom should be seen as an unconscious agreement that traditional video conferencing simply doesn't meet the needs of an interactive and collaborative classroom environment. iSee changes all that.
The emergence of iSee allows the flipped classroom to expand from blended learning environments to online. This still maintains the focus on what learning objectives are best delivered synchronously and asynchronously, but eliminates the assumption that 'flipped' means 'blended' in the traditional sense.
Of course online learning has always had some aspects of the flipped classroom approach, it's just that co-owned spaces were limited to text based discussion boards and chat rooms. Video conferencing has also been available, but at considerable bandwidth expense and requiring specific invitations. A real killer has been the lack of ability to seamlessly and intuitively move between parallel group based video conversations. iSee changes everything in this regard.
Do we need classrooms at all?
So what is a classroom? The advent of online learning and mobile wireless devices has meant that what constitutes 'learning spaces' is now under considerable discussion. For education and the importance of developing teacher/facilitator and peer relationships, perhaps the most important aspects of a classroom is that it can be thought of as a co-owned space where a teacher/facilitator can meet synchronously with students for interactive learning experiences.
iSee can be your classroom in the cloud.
For those wanting to have a test drive of the transformational iSee software a special session is being held as part of and .