“It’s mainly a matter of getting beyond the ‘old wine in new bottles’ attitude and recognizing that these mediasocial media included—are a more effective way of doing something different, rather than a way of automating the same old stuff that we’re used to doing now.” — Chris Dede

Do you remember the first cell phones? The ability to reach out, and be reached, wherever you went meant that an expected phone call no longer tethered you to your home or office. As the technology evolved – and the humble cell phone’s power increased from simple voice and text messaging, to audio and video capability, to full-fledged computing – the potential of what you could do with the device increased greatly, as did your ability to personalize your experience and access that experience anytime, anyplace.

In similar respects, the evolution of technology has the potential to move education beyond the static, presentation-based learning models established during the Industrial Age into a learning-by-doing oriented model that inspires new and dynamic ways to share, think about, and co-create knowledge.

In this presentation from Cengage Learning’s Engage 2013 conference hosted by SXSWedu, Chris Dede discusses the concept of a “life-wide education,” which is not limited to particular places and times. A life-wide education happens everywhere: not only in the classroom, but within an interwoven network of mentors, teachers, family, and peers.

To demonstrate the possibilities of a life-wide education, Dede discusses EcoMUVE, a curriculum that combines digital ecosystems in immersive virtual worlds coupled with augmented realities, and the follow-up research project, EcoMOBILE, which blends EcoMUVE’s software with mobile technologies that allow them to extend the learning experience out into “real-world” field trips. These projects serve as examples of how virtual worlds and augmented reality can provide students with an immersive learning experience.

The EcoMUVE and EcoMOBILE curriculum research projects were specifically designed to teach middle-school students about ecosystem concepts and causal patterns. However, as Dede notes, the thought and process behind the projects can be applied any number of disciplines, and can be tailored to students in post-secondary education as well.

We invite you to dream big: If you had access to all the resources you’d need to develop a virtual world or augmented reality project for your course, what learning experiences would you create for your students? How could these experiences change the ways students interact with your course material, as well as with one another? Share your ideas in the comments section below.

Chris Dede is the Timothy E. Wirth Professor in Learning Technologies at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education. His fields of scholarship include emerging technologies, policy, and leadership. In 2007, he was honored by Harvard University as an outstanding teacher, and in 2011 he was named a Fellow of the American Educational Research Association. His latest book, Digital Teaching Platforms, was published in April 2012.

For additional educational insights from Chris Dede, read our recent post Engaging Students Via Immersion in Virtual Worlds and Augmented Realities.