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What the heck is immersion?

Immersion walls are coming to the Helsinki language high school, where digital material can be shown from the floor to a height of at least 2-2.5 meters.

New concepts appear in the school world from time to time, and in this blog post I thought I would describe a little about the concepts of immersion and immersive, as I understand them myself.

As an artist and art teacher, I first encountered the concept of "immersive" in an artwork representing contemporary art. The work "immersed" its experiencer in the imaginary reality of the work. I read that in biology immersion involves immersion in a liquid and in language teaching we talk about immersion in connection with language immersion. Immersive teaching is therefore immersive, which creates mental images. At its simplest, a well-told engaging story is immersive. It activates and sets the imagination in motion and gets its own shape, figures and colors in the mind of each listener.


Creating immersion has been of interest to people for a long time, but a big leap in immersiveness was taken when the Lumiere brothers noticed in their first film screenings in 1895 that people mistook the train in the black-and-white film for real and even panicked. In 1939, Edwin Mayer and Beulth Graves at the Sawyer company, which manufactures landscape postcards, developed a device for viewing a stereo image. The idea of putting 14 pictures on a cardboard disc created a completely superior user interface at the time and created an unparalleled user experience. The View-Master disc that we all know could fit seven stereo images enabling an immersive experience. Here's a link to a 1978 View-Master ad.

The film's immersiveness was initially improved by enlarging and widening the image area. This development is still going on. A little later, they started adding sound and color to films using different technologies. The importance of sound in creating immersion was well understood by director Steven Spielberg when he financed the creation of Digital Theater Systems (DTS) so that the footsteps of Jurassic Park's dinosaurs would be heavy enough and the roars authentic enough. This kind of technological development of immersiveness seems to be a continuous race.


During my teaching practice at the end of the 1980s, the instructor asked me to mark in my lesson plan the point and time to the minute when the students had an religious experience. So it was about religion. I was amazed at the goal setting. Can the experience be controlled so precisely? Skilled speakers are able to choose the high points of their speech. But teaching discussion is a dialogue and there are many participants who all influence the outcome. So the goal was the most immersive experience, but instead of cutting-edge technology, the tools were a textbook, board work and teaching discussion.

The basics of the curriculum have been prepared based on the learning concept that the student is an active player. The basics emphasize that language, physicality and the use of different senses are essential for thinking and learning. Positive emotional experiences, the joy of learning and new creative activities promote learning and inspire you to develop your own skills. Physicality, the use of the senses and emotional experiences are also the pillars of an immersive experience and thus also help learning.


How should the experiences of physicality, the use of different senses and the learning landscape enabling positive emotions be planned? After all, negative immersiveness also exists. This can be noticed, for example, in game addiction or such screen time that passives a person for long periods at a time.

The boys in the video have been given the task of programming the Sphero ball to travel along the pattern of the textile floor.

The emergence of Positive Immersiveness requires the possibility to exclude external things or the emergence of a strong sense of community, but it does not necessarily require a large screen or a projection surface. The most important thing is that there is a suitably challenging task or topic and time to focus on it. So this is very much a matter related to the rhythm of work and study.

In order to exclude external issues, comprehensive planning is needed, which takes into account the different phases of studying, teaching and working methods. The relationship between furniture and technology plays a very significant role here. Pedagogical planning highlights e.g. management of viewing and listening distances, ergonomics, control for adaptability, attention to aesthetics and reduction of visual stimuli with furniture choices. In larger entities, it is also necessary to ensure that the immersive experiences do not interfere with each other.

Using virtual reality (VR) in teaching also creates completely new opportunities and challenges for pedagogical planning. Immersiveness in VR is not born from a joint action, visible to everyone, as with immersion walls, but rather from a very personal experience.

In virtual reality, a trip to the depths of the seas, cities, forests or to the top of the mountains is always within reach of the hand (or virtual glasses). In the video below, you can join me when, tired of the sleet in southern Finland, I went to the top of the Matterhorn at the end of the workday. The weather was perfect and the trip really takes two days, but it only took me seven minutes. This was an exhilarating and breath-taking experience as you skied the high places. After that seven minutes, I have some idea of what mountain climbing is. And I'm really not going to start a new hobby - yet. That's how immersive this experience was :)

Matterhorn VR – The Summit, a joint project of Red Bull Media House, Jonathan Griffith Productions and Oculus, follows Jeremie Heitz and Samuel Anthamette's climb to the top of the Matterhorn.


Perusopetuksen opetussuunnitelman perusteet 2014

Matterhorn VR – The Summit on Oculus TV

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