The Future of Education

Edition 14

Accepted Abstracts

Conceptual and Educational Foundations of an Integrated Virtual Contemplation

Steven Zhao, Simon Fraser University (Canada)


In recent years, educational studies have demonstrated the increasing emergence of two important directions in pedagogical theorizing and implementation. On one hand, technologies such as virtual reality (VR) have begun to occupy teaching discourses with regards to its implications in enhancing (or obstructing) the immersive/interactive dimensions and therefore, the effectiveness of the learning process. On the other, teachers are progressively grasping the importance of “alternative” pedagogical environments for learning rooted in contemplative-based activities/perspectives such as integrating “mindfulness” as part of subject curriculum. At the outset, much of broader educational discourses have discussed the emergence of immersive technologies and contemplative pedagogies as fundamentally indifferent to each other at best or in direct opposition against each other at worst. However, I propose that the relationship between educational immersive technology such as VR and contemplative pedagogies need and ought not be confined to a contentious status. Specifically, I elaborate a conceptual (or reconceptualizing) framework that reveals a valuable integrative potential between VR and contemplative principles within education. The elaboration involves establishing their shared conceptual foundation as transformative learning – particularly rooted in the educational potential of cognitive/affective states of awe. That is, the conceptual chasm between contemplation and VR can be bridged under shared articulated principles toward states of awe as a potential educational good. This conclusion stands upon framing awe as importantly facilitating learning dispositions that simultaneously reflect educational goals of both VR (i.e., stimulating cognitive openness and curiousity) and contemplative pedagogy (i.e., deriving “spiritually” meaningful experiences and transformations). By synthesizing transformative learning paradigms, contemporary research on states of awe, contemplative approaches, and their potential pedagogical integrations, it is hoped that the valuable potential of their convergence can be further illuminated – and perhaps even embraced – within current and future educational discourses.

Keywords: virtual reality, contemplative pedagogy, mindfulness, immersive learning.


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