Reframing XR & AI for the Future of Education

Are you afraid of Artificial Intelligence? Does it conjure up a scary version of “The Singularity”, mass unemployment, or worse: The Terminator?!


I’ve blogged before about the acronym VUCA and the present and future (that theworld is Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) and AI  and XR play a role in making the future and how we are to learn and be uncertain and ambiguous. But what I’d like to do here is reflect back those fears of complexity and volatility (or if you subscribe to the terminator future) and less violent and disruptive. 

WHY XR and AI are important to pay attention to:

Recently, CIS Ontario held the Connects Unconference. Working with @gbaschuk, @ashaikh and @acampbellrogers, we presented two workshops of the WHAT and HOW and most importantly the WHY of XR (Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality) and Artificial Intelligence in education. To summarize:

(1) For XR: The Research is in – XR can enhance learning: “The pedagogical value of such experiences is enabled through immersion in a reality‐based environment, engagement with complex and ambiguous situations and information, and interaction with the space, other students, and teachers. The results demonstrate that complex immersive learning environments are readily achievable…”

(2) For XR: There are opportunities to enhance experiential learning because XR makes it almost like being there!: “Virtual reality submerges humans into altered environments and processes, intensifies experience and imagination, thereby augmenting research and education”.

(3) For AI and XR: Through emerging apps and experiences, XR allows us to build capacity in our students of empathy and concern for others“Perspective-taking helps negotiate social complexities, diminish biases, improve intergroup attitudes, and encourage a view of outgroups as more self-like,” states the report. “The potential to positively impact attitudes with digital games is not only rooted in their ability to grant perspective, but also in their potency as instruments of persuasion.”

(4) For AI and XR together: We are living in the 4th cycle of computing – explained beautifully HERE by Seth Godin

(5) OVERALL: That we cannot ignore these technologies in the age of the “Exponential Future”: “We are making better tools that make better machines that make better tools that make better machines, and this is all accelerated”.

For more on how these directly apply to experiential education, CLICK HERE for our presentations, tools and examples.

How AI and XR can be reframed for Education

The Center for Curriculum Redesign has released a great paper entitled “Knowledge for the Age of Artificial Intelligence“. It places our historical and current purpose of education  in the phrase the “Coverage Trap”, meaning that the purpose is for participants to achieve financial independence and have a ‘seal of approval’ or validation to venture out into the world.

This paper argues that with the VUCA world in which we live we need to reorganize curriculum towards relevance and real-world settings. This is best described by Dr. Perkins work on “Expert Amateurism” in his book “Future Wise” – where gone are the days of the T-shaped desirable employees. Now, we need people to be “M-shaped”: able to have the breadth of knowledge, but be able to go deep, readjust, recalibrate and go deep elsewhere. That is the desired versatility that our education should be striving for.

Education needs to develop the mindsets, skills and opportunities for our students to be “M-shaped”

Therefore, the CCR argues, we must shift education to develop, build and provide opportunities for our students to become experts in how to use XR and AI to make meaning and transfer it to real-world scenarios. While AI and XR will take up a lot of computing power that humans do now, computers cannot transfer their knowledge and skills to abstract conceptual thinking. They cannot transfer, they cannot reflect on their learning, and they cannot empathize. They cannot think in an interdisciplinary, integrated way. Therefore, the opportunity is for education to prepare students for the shift that is going to happen as AI and XR advance: making meaning in a human context. This requires conceptualization, contextualization and empathy.

Therefore, education needs to be reframed in a way that builds these skills and pushing human learning beyond what AI and XR will be capable of.

While the depth of this article is too much to outline here, my big take-away is this: the future of education is about:

Reminagine education for AI and XR to take up the burden of knowledge, freeing humans to focus on making meaning

(1) Mindsets (how we approach learning: creative confidence, embracing ambiguity, getting comfortable with discomfort, empathy)

(2) Meta-learning (the reflection of oneself on who they are as a learner, how they learn and how to improve their capacity to learn)

(3) Transfer (leveraging previous knowledge to figure out something that you do not yet understand, and making meaning)

You will notice that these three elements are key to navigating a present and future that is characterized by VUCA.

But I would rather stick my head in the ground…why shouldn’t I?

As already outlined above, there is too much forward momentum and excitement in the private sector about XR and AI. But there is another compelling reason to keep your eyes up and your learning hat on: the tension that AI and XR are creating in the world.

Seth Godin, in “This is Marketing” writes, “If you’re going to market a pattern interrupt, it will require you to provide the kind of tension that can only be released by being willing to change an ingrained person…” (pg. 115) The world of AI and XR are a huge pattern interrupt, and the tension is building. This is different than fear – soon AI and XR are going to be more and more familiar. Just look at this YOUTUBE about the future of car-windows and augmented reality. Soon it will be creating a tension that we can’t ignore.

We owe it to our current and future students.


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