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Do we need to be face-to-face or Is the future of connected 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 about 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? :-)

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Comment by Hazel Owen on September 23, 2011 at 22:16
Love the idea that you might be working away and suddenly get a 'virtual alert' (poke in the ribs maybe) that you should be staying on task!! ;-)
Comment by Nigel Bailey on September 23, 2011 at 12:31
I guess that in a way students experiencing a VC lesson are effectively distant and immediate. It is possible to develop relationships with students this way (not sure how it would work if there was no visual though) but I am not sure that the relationship is as good as with f2f students. The down side to VC is that it is only an infrequent 'relationship' effectively as most of the learning is done at a distance with no immediate input from the teacher. maybe we could develop a computer that lets us know what the student is doing/thinking and we could think the response and the student would 'feel it' - a metaphorical kick up the backside maybe?

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