Is the Metaverse a passing fad?

daughter and dad

In the last six to twelve months, there has been a lot of talk about emerging technologies in the Metaverse. So what is it, and do we want our kids to go there?

Recently I attended a webinar where trends forecaster and author, Michael McQueen, unpacked the mysteries behind the Metaverse. The Metaverse is a virtual world in which people can connect, collaborate, ‘live’ and create. It is a real-time space where individuals and companies alike can socialise, undertake business, learn, and purchase goods, both digital and real. McKinsey (2022) reported that in the first five months of this year, more than $120 billion was invested in building metaverse technology and infrastructure. This year the Australian Open was the first Grand Slam to enter the Metaverse, setting up a replica tournament in Decentraland, a ‘suburb’ of sorts within the Metaverse. Fans were able to “discover the precinct, complete challenges, view historic AO content, interact with players and other tennis fans, all from their laptops”. The Australian Open Artball, a unique fusion of art and technology in the form of a non-fungible token (NFT) generated over $5.5 million from secondary sales.

For children and adults alike, the Metaverse is already here. While most adults struggle to understand how someone could spend $650,000 on a digital yacht that will never set sail on a real sea, or purchase a digital Gucci jumper for thousands of ‘real’ dollars in order to make your avatar more stylish, children are already used to buying ‘skins’ in their online worlds to personalise and individualise their online characters in games such as Roblox.

Our Hillcrest VLC teachers have had fun this week building and exploring digital worlds in an educational platform within the Metaverse. We visited Sydney at the time of the landing of the First Fleet, ‘flying’ high in the sky to gain an aerial view, before teleporting to Mars to check out the surface and living conditions. We then entered a portal into a butterfly enclosure where we learnt alongside students in a school in Mexico who were also uploading their project work so we could compare species between our two countries and practice describing our work in another language.

Microsoft veteran Marc Whitten stated that “the Metaverse will be the biggest ever platform revolution… Bigger than the impact of mobile devices or the web. Every Fortune 1,000 company will need to have a Metaverse strategy”. By engaging students in digital worlds, it not only gives them the opportunities to engage in experiences that they couldn’t do in the ‘real’ world, but also provides teachers and parents increasingly important opportunities to have conversations about digital citizenship, moral and ethical dilemmas in an online world, and issues such as cyber-bullying. The Metaverse is here. We can pretend it’s not, OR we can use it to inform and educate our children as they grow in a world with ever-changing technologies. Let’s be proactive and see how we can develop young men and women who can impact our world – digital and real – for good.

Author: Danni Foster-Brown

Head of Virtual Learning Community

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