Friday, December 3, 2010

What can a Virtual Museum tell us about virtual schools?

I discovered the Adobe Virtual Museum the other day and after tooling around in it for awhile began to think about what it might tell us about schools.  If you haven't tried the link be patient, the download times are long but it is quite interesting.  I especially recommend watching the video on the creation of the building.

The Adobe Virtual Museum only exists in cyberspace and is dedicated to showing digital art.  What is fascinating is that the creators felt the need to create a digital building to house the digital art.  What this tells me is that"place" is important.  Humans want to have some sort of corporeal connection to places where transactions occur.  The museum creators seemed to think this was true of museums and I would be willing to bet its true for most people undertaking most activities.

But wait!  When you visit the exhibits in the virtual museum they are disconnected from the digital building that houses them.  They could exist and be accessed without the building.  I don't know if this is a flaw in the concept or if, because the museum is new, they haven't connected the art to the virtual space as they say was their intent in the video.

Will simulations of this sort be more and more ubiquitous in the future?  Will people be satisfied with viewing art and architecture virtually.  Can we create virtual spaces that satisfy the need for place in human transactions?

These are all interesting questions when you think about how schools might deal with these phenomenon.  Students who grow up using technology to communicate seamlessly and who are very comfortable in the virtual worlds of video games and movies may become equally comfortable in socializing in virtual space especially as technology continues to improve.  When and if this comes to pass students will have fewer reason to go to a physical location for learning.  If they can learn at their own pace, studying what interests them, get expert real time help, and connect with their friends virtually, while still having all the comforts of home (or the local coffee shop) why go to a brick and mortar school? 

The question really comes down to: What degree can virtual reality replace reality for students?  Perhaps only time will tell.  Check out the museum at:  Adobe Virtual Museum

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