The FutureEd Interactive Simulator

This page features excerpts from "The FutureEd Interactive Simulator," a scenario and artifact created by North Carolina high school student Sierra McLeod, and her own reflections on her work.

Imagine going from classroom to classroom for five days a week. Each day starts to feel like a routine. For adolescents like Sierra, six to eight hours in a classroom can be exhausting, causing loss of in interest in a topic. Sierra always found it difficult to study astronomy. She didn't own a telescope and could only see 2D images in her textbook. It was hard to relate to something relatively unknown to her. How can we keep students like Sierra's interest while broadening their horizons on a subject? The solution is The FutureEd Interactive Simulator (FIS). The FIS combines 4D imaging and touch sensors to bring different scenarios to life in classrooms. The FIS requires a light projector to send images across the classroom, a computer application to choose and manage scenarios, and a light switch system to control the FIS. The FIS projects scenes and holographic, interactive images throughout the entire room for students to use.

Describe how you came up with your ideas for the FIS.

I struggled at first coming up with an idea for future learning that was both different and possible. I used the activities provided to help brainstorm and develop my ideas. The most beneficial activity for me was thinking about the challenges I face in school every day and thinking about what might help me overcome those challenges. I also had to remind myself to 'wear someone else's shoes', as every classroom is not like my own in terms of technology use, amount of students, and resources available.

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When the FIS was brought into Sierra's classroom, she was extremely excited. Her teacher simply opened a computer application and selected the desired simulator, turned on the FIS projector and light switch, and the classroom was instantly transformed into the dark vast of space. Earth appeared as a 4D image, rotating slowly in the middle of the room. The students could look up and see the inward pull of millions of stars. Sierra's classmate, Tony, was pleased with the ease of simulator. As a wearer of glasses, Tony did not have to compromise his vision or enjoying the simulator. He simply walked around the classroom and participated in the interactive activities with the class.

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What’s your preferred future of learning? What would you like to see the next generation of students experience?

My preferred future of learning is one that allows all students to be actively engaged and participating in an activity. I would like the next generation of students to experience the typical textbook material coming to life through sensory images, designs, and more. Going to school doesn't have to be boring; when students are attentive and immersed in their learning, they embody critical thinking.

At first, Jill was nervous about the new classroom system. She was a shy girl and was hesitant to use technology. Luckily for Jill, the FIS was successful. She reached up and felt the deep crevices of the moon's surface. Jill wondered why the moon had so many craters but the Earth didn't. Her teacher informed her that the moon lacked an atmosphere to shelter itself from outside forces. It was a pleasant change to have Jill actively participating in the classroom activity.

The FIS has a powerful affect on students. Not only are students engaged and participating in classroom activities, they are encouraged to have activity in the classroom. Students who are active in classrooms have a higher retention rate.

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You told us that your teacher experimented with and then stopped using virtual reality glasses in one of your classes because they were not inclusive enough. How do you think we can ensure that the future of learning works for everyone?

With any new invention comes trial and error. Though the virtual reality glasses were innovative, there were only a few glasses for a whole class (due to our school's technology budget), thus limiting the time we got to experience with the virtual reality. Also, students with glasses had to choose between seeing clearly or having a comfortable fit with the glasses. With the FIS projector, the classroom environment is transformed into the virtual reality. Holographic images and sounds are projected throughout the classroom for students to explore. This also increases interaction between students and teachers, as everyone can hear and discuss the activity.

Do you think young people would benefit from being taught to think about the future in general? Why or why not?

Young people benefit greatly from thinking about the future. When thinking about the future, we have the opportunity to explore the vast opportunities and resources available. We should live in the present, yet prepare for the future by imagining wht might seem to be impossible. Allowing young people to think about the future encourages leadership and critical thinking, all while shaping the next generation.