Tag Archives: professional development

Making Contact Inside the Computer

Posted by: Sherry Law on June 29, 2016 11:49 am

Over the last 2 years as I have delved deeper into virtual reality (VR) I have learned things I never expected to experience. The fact that VR is programmable means that the experience is solely dependent on ones imagination (and perhaps a little aptitude for software development). VR transports you immediately into a new reality and this holds many implications. The truth is that the physical body, or meat space, does not go anywhere. It is the mind or the psyche that is convincingly transported and the focus of my exploration. This is the true potential for the impact of VR.

I recently received a consumer version VR device. This device not only allows you to glimpse into another world, but also provides you the ability to manipulate the world around you with your hands. In addition, the technology provides the freedom of movement throughout a play area where you can walk around, sit, dance, pivot, the full range of bodily motions as long as it is within the bounds of a play area. This transforms ones understanding of the lived experiences almost 100% from the meat space into a digital realm. When you can train your aim inside an archery simulation and the fidelity nearly reflects reality, it is a strange experience indeed. I have never done archery myself, but being able to have some measure of behavioural mimicry to archery was not only a fun experience, but immersive and tiring! Having to duck and dodge enemy fire, destroying enemies with accurate aim, and spinning around at a second’s notice to ensure no one was attacking you from behind was thrilling. To imagine that this is the new world of the gamer, no longer bound to a computer chair, but sweating instead in a dimly lit room, practicing proper aim that can maybe be carrieblogphotosherryd into the real world. On the score board, your abilities are compared against the best in the world and usernames compete in a never ending battle to the top rank.

I also experienced an amazing level of intimacy in VR. Coming headset to headset with other people around the world, playing games and chatting with them through mics was absolutely astounding. I could see their heads move about as they thought about the ideas I shared with them. People witnessed my hands held on my hips as I wait for them to take the next shot at pool. We giggled together as we threw chairs all around a digital bar and made a mess with beer bottles and books. I high fived someone from Germany, we chatted about what a strange experience VR was, we looked at each other’s computer screens to check time zone differences between me and someone from Illinois, and goofed around with the interface as we learned and tinkered with our new toys. I was approached by a Frenchman from Austria that even wanted to show me around the digital space while I practiced my French. We spent time with phantom others in our minds, while our bodies remained alone and without company, yet I felt connected online for the very first time. I have made several friends already from around the world.

Does the mind care that you are not physically next to a person? No. I can say for myself that my mind was thoroughly convinced that I was properly socializing with others beside me, sharing and laughing together in a room. Meeting with strangers was no more jarring than in person, and in earnest, less so because all my fears of judgment vanished with the replacement of my body as an avatar. However, my expression, who “I” was did not vanish, and was perhaps enhanced by the removal of my distracting physical self.

*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Professional Development Always Refreshes Me

Posted by: Mike Peirce on June 12, 2015 12:00 pm

I have just returned from the annual conference for the New England Association of College Admission Counselors (NEACAC) and feel great about going. The nice thing is that this conference deals with most of the major topics in US post-secondary education covered by the national conference but is affordable for a counsellor on a budget!

One might ask why a Canadian counsellor goes to a New England conference but I feel it is important to stay in touch which changes in University admissions which may impact the students I work with. Some of my students are interested in applying to US Universities so part of my responsibility is to be aware of what is happening. It also gives me the chance to brag a little about what Canadians have to offer. I was thrilled to see a full room for my presentation about Canadian Universities as well as the number of US counsellors who spoke to me after about the wonderful value our Universities are for US students. We tend to forget that Canada is a great destination for international students.

One of the big topics at the conference was concerning the new SAT which will be initiated in March 2016. There are some pretty substantial changes being made to the test so it will be important for students to be aware of what they are heading into. Gone are the old SAT word pairs (thank goodness) but the revised testing will take longer, almost 4 hours…. and will involve significantly more reading throughout the test (including the math sections). Looking at the style of questions, the new SAT will be testing more curriculum knowledge rather than simply measuring aptitude. Detailed information regarding the changes to the test can be found at: https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org. One of the positive changes is that students can sign up for FREE on-line test preparation through a partnership between the Collegeboard and Khan Academy (a large on-line education provider) removing the advantage more affluent students once had with their ability to pay for significant test preparation. Details can be found at: https://www.khanacademy.org/sat. Certainly any student considering application to a US University should take advantage of this service.
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*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA