Ottawa to Pilot ImmersEd: First-Ever Virtual Reality Education Program

By Skydeas (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Now this is exciting.

Last week, the Dude and I had a sneak preview of an incredible leap being taken by the Ottawa Public School Board.

Now you know me and my complaints about the lack of tech ed in schools... well, honestly, I was blown away. It's (dare I say it) ground-breaking!

If you missed the announcement yesterday, Ottawa is going to be the pilot location for an unbelievable experiment: homeschooling via immersive multimedia. Immersive multimedia (aka virtual reality) has been in the news a lot lately with the recent acquisition of Oculus Rift by Facebook. Companies such as Sony, EA and others have all been working on consoles in this area for years.

Now we're not talking about virtual reality like Second Life, this is immersive: helmet with screen, some sort of touch device (like a glove), and all materials delivered in a truly virtual classroom. This new venture is the brainchild of Kanata-based, ImmersEd (cute) whose goal is "A Strong Foundation, Limitless Possibilities."

The kids who are admitted into the program will log on to the system for 4-6 hours per day including some physical activity delivered with the system. This is intended to be a homeschooling program, so parents will be responsible for arranging outdoor time (i.e. recess or physical breaks). The curriculum will be mixed:
  • "live-action" taught by teachers in remote locations (e.g. Ottawa schools and abroad), 
  • prepared multimedia products such as Ted-Ed lectures, 
  • self-study and homework exercises such as virtual science experiments and learning games.
One advantage is that the program will be heavier on the STEM component (science, technology, engineering and math) than the current in-school curriculum. With simulations, the students will be able to try out building, programming and experimenting in ways that would not be possible in the physical classroom. And the technology also opens up the possibility of classes and discussions with experts from around the world and real-time remote experiences that aren't always convenient in the classroom, like studying work on the space station via the Nasa channel.

According to analysts, this could potentially reboot Ottawa's status as Silicon Valley North. (Remember that? I do. The layoffs, the severance packages. Now those were the days ;) ImmersEd has received funding from both local venture capitalists and some VCs Silicon Valley to get the pilot off the ground.

Now they are looking for participants to enroll into the program. For the first year, the pilot class will consist of 10-12 English board students in grade 9 (age 13-14). Obviously, hubby and I are incredibly excited by the prospect of the Dude participating in the program in 3 years, but for now we have to wait. (Boo! ):

If you're interested in finding out more, the link to the application site is below. ImmersEd asked me to first post this disclaimer, so parents are aware of the potential side effects of immersive tech:
Disclaimer: Immersive reality technology can cause motion-induced illness including dizziness and nausea, disorientation, headaches and perceptual distortion leading to susceptibility to April's fools jokes.
Gotcha ;)