A whole new world: Education meets the Metaverse.


The Metaverse has arrived. It will soon be as pervasive as Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok (now Meta). Teachers must change how we educate children and prepare to take advantage of these new opportunities as technology advances and creates new immersive and fantastical worlds. When technology advances more slowly than education, technology rather than educators define what constitutes a legitimate educational opportunity. This largely happened when “educational” apps were made available on adult-targeted smartphones and tablets. Researchers, educators, policymakers, and digital designers can set the direction today rather than getting sucked into the undertow because the metaverse infrastructure is still being built. We require new approaches to link the real world with augmented and virtual reality (VR) experiences to fully realize the potential of the Metaverse as a 3D, global, interconnected, immersive, and real-time online space.

In this policy brief, we provide a method for bringing the best instructional strategies into the Metaverse development. We propose a set of tried-and-true guidelines to direct the development of new educational technology drawn from the science of what and how children learn. We also suggest how this unique area’s design might go wrong. Ultimately, we challenge those developing educational materials for the Metaverse to collaborate with educators and scientists to ensure that kids have authentic human social interaction while navigating virtual spaces and that kids’ agency is supported. At the same time, they explore these spaces and that there is a genuine focus on diversity in the representation and access to what is created.

An Idea

Imagine a circular classroom with whiteboards all around it filled with movable chairs. The stories of Greek myths, the might of the sky god Zeus, and tales of the great Hercules—his son—whose legendary strength enthralled students.

A timeline is suddenly projected onto the center of the floor. Children quickly push aside their chairs and stand in the present, prepared to travel back in time and enter the year 300 BC, where they will experience a different reality. They step into the Greek cultural metaverse. Market vendors and carts surround them as they pass by, and from atop a hill, they can see the gods’ temples and the worshippers who frequent them. They investigate, they enquire, they reflect, and they learn!

The purpose of the experience was to whet the students’ appetites, but concerns still exist about how we could know the depth of Greek life. How would we know what was for sale in the market and which gods were the most revered if we didn’t live there?

The educator then places each student on the timeline so that they are back in the present. The surrounding walls transform into images of brown dust in which they can see the ruins of ancient temples and scattered fragments of columns. Now, every child has the opportunity to assume the role of the archaeologist and use her avatar to research the issues surrounding how we create the past while living in the present. The plot and a shovel are provided for the avatars, who also have a brush. The teacher continues, “Like all societies in the past, the organization you saw was buried in the dirt. It’s like a storybook that you can piece together by removing each layer of soil. The kids move their avatars and start looking at the ground in a new way—carefully and curiously. Each discovers broken pottery pieces and even the partial faces of once-proud statues. After 20 minutes of working with the soil, they present their findings to the class. The virtual and physical learning environments they have created are filled with collaborative learning and co-creation opportunities.

They discover an urn and a statue by putting their fragments together as if they were piecing together a historical puzzle. They find out that the myths are more than just tales; they were once part of paganism, a long-ago religion that actual people practiced during a period that is now submerged beneath the earth’s surface. They contributed to the rediscovery of that society.

The Metaverse, a hybrid, guided play environment that could be the school of the future, provides us with this lifelong, deep, transferable learning. But note that the interaction is inherently social, involving real people and real, moment-to-moment interactions that are emotionally charged. Observe also how important the teachers are to this experience. There is no doubt that the Metaverse is on its way. It is our responsibility to explain how participation in this constantly-on, virtual universe enhances rather than detracts from education and how it can maintain the essential social-interactive elements that are fundamental to how people learn.

A Describe of the Metaverse

Different tech industry leaders provided definitions of the Metaverse in Forbes Magazine. Each refers to a space that combines the virtual and the real, creating a “third space” distinct from the home and workplace, as noted by the sociologist Ray Oldenburg.

Future metaverses will likely fully support augmented and virtual reality, AI, and connectivity that connects all worlds. In fact, anyone can create a space and join a user-generated global community on an interoperable multiplatform where they can share their games or products with the world in its most democratic form. The G5’s internet speed should make this possible.

The video games Roblox, Minecraft, and Fortnite, are some of the more well-known examples of what is yet to come. For instance, Roblox provides various gaming options, and these games have drawn over 42 million active users, up more than 19% from 2019. The developers of Roblox also try to remove users who will play their games and increase their visibility.

It is essential to consider how researchers can inform designers immediately to ensure that upcoming educational offerings and products in the Metaverse are of the highest caliber and optimized.

Numerous additional instances demonstrate the dynamic power of the Metaverse. Virbela provides online wedding and meeting venues. Additionally, Nike’s creation of Nikeland on Roblox generated news. VR platforms will become better populated as they become more accessible and connected. Furthermore, VR accessories, such as VR goggles, will grow and even be adopted in educational settings as they become less cumbersome. Therefore, it is crucial to consider how researchers can provide designers with information immediately to optimize upcoming educational offerings and products in the Metaverse.

Lessons From Web 2.0 and “Educational App” Development

The Nokia 6110 phone provided the first mobile app in 1997. (of a game called Snake). After the iPhone was released in 2007, the app market took off, and it only got better when iPads entered the market in 2011. The market was already flooded with more than 80,000 so-called educational apps by 2015 when our research team published the first set of guiding principles for creating truly “educational apps.” The vast majority of these apps needed more research supporting their design or implementation that was connected to the science of how children learn. Instead of providing opportunities for children to learn, they were created as platforms for adults. Even today, designers frequently label products as “educational,” even though many scientists believe they have only a tenuous connection to education.

We offered four guidelines for developing a quality educational app in our article. The guidelines were derived from a scientific consensus on how children learn. We stated that:

  • Children learn best in “minds-on” environments, where learning should be active rather than passive. This indicates that a simple swipe did not qualify as an “active” action in a learning environment.
  • Only bells and whistles integrated into the narrative of the game, lesson, or storyline should be present in the app, which should be engaging rather than distracting. Many apps interrupt the narrative to test kids’ vocabulary (e.g., “What else is red or starts with a B?”) and have intrusive pop-up ads that try to persuade kids to purchase a different app.
  • The app should appeal to the child’s sense of significance. Instead of starting from scratch in a foreign environment, there should be some point of connection that will allow kids to relate the app’s content to what they already know.
  • Finally, rather than just promoting solitary play, the app should promote social interaction both inside and outside of the app.

The idea that learning should be iterative was added to the list of principles in 2018 so that an app could either encourage kids to accomplish a learning goal through various pathways or allow for a similar but slightly different experience each time. The background should also be enjoyable for kids because they learn best when motivated by joy. We coined the term “playful learning” to refer to the principles of being active, engaged, meaningful, socially interactive, iterative, and joyful, all coming together to describe how children learn through free and guided play.

However, a further step is necessary to make these apps truly educational. Be it in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), literacy, or “learning to learn” skills like memory, attention, and flexible thinking, learning happens best when the playful activity has a clearly defined learning goal.

Our team examined the most popular educational apps from stores like Google Play and Apple in 2021, under the direction of Marisa Meyer and Jenny Radesky, to determine whether the principles above were becoming more commonplace in the current crop of kid-friendly educational apps. They were not, sadly. Only seven apps received a score that placed them in the highest quality category among the most popular paid apps for young children, with 50% scoring in the low-quality range. Scores for free apps were even lower.

Reiterating the Learning Principles

Whether they are used in classrooms, video games, or community settings, such as bus stops, parks, or even the Metaverse, the principles of how children learn to remain constant, these abilities, such as teamwork, critical thinking, and creative innovation, expand our conception of success beyond traditional academic disciplines like reading and math.

We argue that focusing on material that can be measured and tested the most easily has captivated educational products and classrooms. While it is unquestionably important for kids to have a foundation in math and reading, preparing them for the workplace of the future requires much more. The 6Cs or outcomes are supported by a wealth of research and are based on the science of learning. The basis for a connected set of skills is social interaction or collaboration. The 6 Cs are summarised in the following way by Golinkoff and Hirsh-Pasek in their book “Becoming Brilliant”:

  • Collaboration: Social interaction is fundamental to human nature and serves as the foundation for education, community development, and cross-cultural understanding. It’s interesting to note how cooperative play produces distinct patterns of synchronised brain activity in both infants and adults. These early partnerships help young children’s self-regulation skills to develop in new ways. Through the elementary school years, children develop their understanding of cooperation, which supports academic achievement.
  • Communication: Speaking, writing, reading, and listening are all forms of communication that are crucial to our daily lives. Early language acquisition happens as a result of conversations between kids and their parents. The strongest indicator of later academic performance in language, reading, and math as well as social skills is a child’s language skills when they start kindergarten. Infants’ initial cooperative interactions with others in their environment serve as a foundation for communication as well as a requirement for it. All subsequent skills are built upon the capacity for cooperation and communication.
  • Content:  Reading, writing, math, science, social studies, and the arts are all examples of traditional content. However, it’s also critical to acknowledge executive function skills, such as attention and working memory, which support children’s academic achievement. The foundation of collaboration—and particularly communication—across the disciplines, including math, literacy, science, and social studies, serves as the foundation for content. A growing body of research demonstrates that executive functioning lays a broad foundation for reading and math skills. In contrast, we frequently think of learning in “bins” (for instance, children only learn math content in math class). Children cannot master content and advance to higher levels of learning until they have developed collaboration and communication skills.
  • Critical thinking:  Strong critical thinkers can assess the caliber of the information they consume and, ideally, apply these abilities both inside and outside the classroom. However, students have the most difficulty with this task when evaluating online sources, a crucial 21st-century skill. The good news is that reasoning, a critical thinking component, can be taught. Children’s capacities for group work, communication, and meaningful engagement with curriculum content come before critical thinking. They won’t be able to evaluate the knowledge they learn critically until they have mastered that content.
  • Creative innovation: Innovation through creativity: Students can use what they already know to create something new and develop innovative solutions to problems they currently face and will face in the future. Innovation through creativity is the synthesis of content and critical thinking. That innovation in both language and art is directly supported by play. Play also fosters creativity because it promotes curiosity and exploration, both of which can be seen as assets in any job and should be. The World Economic Forum ranks creativity as the third most crucial skill for employment. Collaboration, communication, thorough content knowledge, and the capacity to engage with that content critically by drawing connections between it and real-world experiences are all necessary for creative thinking. Creative children can turn those connections into something new, coming up with novel solutions to issues.
  • Confidence: Children with self-confidence in their skills show perseverance and adaptability even when they fail. The traits of “grit,” which are described as “perseverance and passion for long-term goals,” and “growth mindset,” which is the conviction that one can improve one’s abilities because they are not fixed in time at a particular level, are closely related to confidence. Children’s opinions of their abilities are strongly influenced by their parents’ attitudes toward their performance—and occasional failure—which can occasionally result in the development of a fixed mindset instead of a growth mindset. In this way, interactions between children and others influence how they view their abilities. Children can use their abilities in collaboration, communication, content mastery, and critical and creative thinking to push the limits of their learning thanks to the final skill in the set, confidence—both physical and intellectual.

When considered as a whole, playful learning offers a systemic checklist of what children learn—or what they can and should know—while the 6Cs provide a list of how children learn. Once the formula is understood, it is simple to design digital and real-world environments to adhere to the best learning principles. A metaverse can be created to provide a setting and experiences that facilitate and support teamwork, communication, content mastery, creative thinking, creative innovation, and self-assurance.

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From the Future

We then go back to the classroom, which is surrounded by white walls and can make kids feel as though they are living in the Magic School Bus. Ms. Frizzle, however, won’t exist in this world in 2D or as an avatar. She will act as a real-life teacher and guide who will assist kids in looking beyond their immediate surroundings to the past, the present, and the future. Children will learn a wider range of skills, such as the 6Cs, in this world and will be better able to apply what they have learned to the real world of people and places. They will also have “first”-hand experiences in foreign countries. Education is going to the Metaverse. The question is whether we can create deliberate and appropriate opportunities that are genuinely educational in this novel and exciting context as designers, policymakers, educators, and parents.


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