NECC: Wicked Problems Published 2008-06-30 under , ,

iste Summary and take-away's from NECC session "Immersive Collaborative Simulations in Augmented Reality"

"Wicked Problems" as Chris Dede describes, are problems that are too big for any single individual to be an expert on. Global climate change is an example. Such problems are becoming more common place in today's complex world and to address such problems a team with diverse and complimentary skills / knowledge sets is required. And, the lecture is not the place for teaching such complex learning.

Dede offers three alternative learning environments all focusing on what he termed as "Situated Learning".

  1. Internships and apprenticeships where tacit learning is available.
  2. Multi-User Virtual Environments such as Second Life and MMORPGs
  3. Ubiquitous computing learning environments - augmented reality

This last category - augmented reality - suggests a new approach to computing where we depart from the traditional desktop approach to access. Access to information, experts, and even virtual worlds has been through the desktop and it is this form of interaction with technology that we are most comfortable. The desktop offers a portal to other worlds whether they be as simple as a dictionary for looking up word, to communal like Wikipedia, to social like Facebook, to all-encompassing like Second Life.

In an augmented reality, we will leave our desktop and move around in our physical world that has been enhanced, augmented, with virtual artifacts. Thus, on your next visit to Target, you may encounter a virtual personal shopping assistant who knows your needs as well as your tastes and will use this information to better inform you of the newest products and those items that are on sale. Your complete interaction with this assistant might be through your phone or PDA.

In education, augmented reality can be used to create (reproducible) learning opportunities for our students. Dede and his group at Harvard have put together a "challenge" where students explore their neighborhood looking for clues to help explain the reported landing of an alien spaceship. These clues are virtual and are activated using GPS technology when the students move (physically) to a particular place. Students are presented with a set diffentiated clues based on the "role" that they play in this augmented reality. One student might be the FBI agent, so her clues are geared toward information that an FBI agent might discover. Another might be a NASA scientist and another might be a linguist (to help decipher the alien language). Students work in a team collecting their information, solving problems, sharing their results and collaborating on a solution.

This sounds rather far out, or at least non-traditional, but I was surprised to hear that it was funded by a grant from US Dept. of Ed. to address poor (standardized) test grades. While I did not hear how effective the project was in regards to test scores, it did sound very successful at engaging students with "real" world learning. I guess the folks in Washington are happy enough as Dede, et. al., are in the process of creating their second scenario where a gray whale has beached itself and students are clamoring to find out why. Sounds interesting and what a fun way to simulate "wicked problems"!

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Cari said...

I LOVE the idea of a virtual personal shopping assistant at Target! Where can I get me one of those?

Just what you need: someone else adding things to your wife's Target list...