Posted by: crudbasher | February 10, 2012

Forces That Will Transform Learning

If you look back on “futurist” videos from the 1920s and 30s it’s interesting to see what they thought the future would look like. For example, check out this video.

Besides the weird fashion show in the middle, what you see is larger, more elaborate buildings, and lots more transportation options. (oh and a robot with a gun).  Do you notice what you don’t see? Computers. They had no idea what computers were and why they would transform the world. Even in 1958, Tom Watson the CEO of IBM said the following: “I think there is a world market for about five computers.”

Obviously he was a tad bit off, but it’s understandable. Therefore when we look at videos about the future of schools they tend to be just more modern versions of what we have today. I don’t buy it. There are a lot of forces that are going to radically transform society and education won’t be exempt from it. Some of these forces include the following:

  1. Low cost/free computing – The trend lines are clear, adequate computing to do most learning tasks will be pretty much free in less than a decade.
  2. Life Long Learning – Society will be changing so fast, everyone will need to be a student for life. – this creates the economic conditions for the next step.
  3. Independent learning providers – Massive demand is creating a market for low cost learning that can’t be met by traditional providers. Therefore others will step into the gap.
  4. Changing Teacher and Student roles – The Internet’s ability to connect people will change who is a student and who is a teacher. Most people will be both.
  5. Disaggregation – Society is undergoing a reorganization from location based systems to idea based systems. This is evolutionary, natural, and unstoppable.
  6. Physical buildings are expensive – Businesses are realizing that physical infrastructure can be a liability. Companies like Amazon.com already exist mostly on the Internet. Schools with large physical plants will not be able to compete against virtual schools in a cost-benefit analysis.
  7. Simulation – Simulation will allow learning to become truly experiential. In 20 years time, the concept of learning by lecture will be extinct.

This brings me to the article that promoted this post. Tim Sweeney of Epic Games had some comments recently about how long it will be until truly photorealistic games. He says it will be two generations of video game system. This would equal about 15 years I think. Personally, I think we will get close to photorealistic much faster than that. This will allow learning simulations that are very realistic. In fact, they will be so realistic that the experience gained by playing them will be directly transferable into the real world.

Here is a video of a new game called Skyrim. It’s being played by some of your students I guarantee. 🙂 They just released the tools required to make modifications to the game and make your own content.

    • Every graphical and technical advance the game industry has seen from Pong to Crysis has been a small step toward the end goal of a real-time, photorealistic 3D world that is truly indistinguishable from a real-world scene. Speaking at the DICE Summit Thursday, Epic Games founder and programmer Tim Sweeney examined the speed and direction of computing improvements and determined that we “might expect, over the course of our lifetime, we’d get to amounts of computing power that come very close to simulating reality.”
    • This level of detail sets an upper limit on the amount of memory and raw processing power we’d need to depict a “good enough” photorealistic scene, Sweeney says. That limit is about 50 times greater than the polygon-processing capabilities of today’s top-end hardware, meaning it’s at least two generations away.
    • And while Samaritan’s 2.5 teraflops (that’s trillions of floating-point operations per second, laymen) is a far cry from the 10 megaflops that were needed to power the original Doom, we’re still a good deal short of the 5,000 teraflops Sweeney calculates we’d need to process a fully realistic 3D scene in real time.

      And even then, that would only handle the visual effects we currently understand how to model realistically—things like shadows, skin tones, smoke, and water. Plenty of the intangible elements of a scene, like realistic human movements, speech, and even personality, are way beyond our ability to model realistically just yet. “We don’t have the algorithms, so even if we had a perfect computer today… we’d be relying not on more computing power, but on innovation in the state of the art algorithms,” Sweeney said.

    • Whatever form the interface takes, though, the change caused by truly realistic real-time modeling is going to be truly revolutionary, Sweeney said. “When a whole generation of kids is raised with those devices pervasively around them, it’s going to change the world,” he said.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

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