Is the future of learning virtual?

Douglas Gayeton and his avatar, Molotov Alva, ...Image via WikipediaRecently, Linda Ojala, posted a thought-proving reflection entitled Connecting Face To Face with Families. One of the key points she made was “There is such value in getting together as a group and working face to face….You can post videos and articles…but having these real experiences with the students and families is by far so much more beneficial”.

This started me wondering – Is it a human requirement to be in each other’s physical presence to learn? Is it bout trust? Relationship building? Or is it, like other of our behaviours something that may shift and change as we and technology move into the future? Could, for instance, participating in a virtual world become akin to the face-to-face experience?

Mother and Baby Japanese Macaque Monkeys at Mo...Image by Richard.Fisher via Flickr

I was listening to a podcast a couple of days back where a computer was designed to ‘read’ the brain activity of a macaque monkey while she moved her arm. Over time, the computer ‘learned’ how the monkey achieved the movements, and a group of scientists developed an artificial arm that was also attached to the same computer. This arm was put into a room that the monkey could see through a window, and she quickly worked out that when she moved her arm the one through the window did exactly the same. Again, over time, she made the leap to not moving her own arm but using her brain to only move the arm in the other room as if it were a third limb that was an integral part of her anatomy! (You can read a more-detailed article from the New Scientist here: Monkey’s brain signals control third arm).

This being the case, I wonder if humans will move toward the stage where they don’t need to be in the same room, but could experience learning in as rich and immediate way, while also being at a distance? 🙂

About ictenhancedlearningandteaching

I am a director and consultant at Ethos Consultancy NZ ( I have a keen interest in all aspects of ICT Enhanced Learning and Teaching (ICTELT) where the focus lies on ways of scaffolding and empowering learners. In particular, I am interested in the way that creative, blended approached to Academic Professional Development can create trust, rapport and encourage reflective practice. As such, ICTELT is approached from facilitation, design, evaluation and assessment as opposed to the tools and what they can offer. I am a strong advocate of the potential of Web 2.0 to empower learners from all walks of life and cultures, especially after my experiences working for 6 years in the Middle East. In particular, I am interested how ePortfolios can be used in the VET sector (especially where Literacy and Language challenges are faced), in Recognition of Prior Learning, and in authentic, applied assessment. I have been involved with designing and developing ICTELT approaches and programmes for ten years. Following research informed approaches and design, I apply a qualitative, iterative process to evaluate the effectiveness of interventions, programmes and tools, encouraging learners' voices and input from all stakeholders.
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