“Today, young people are much more exposed to enormous amounts of information. Critical thinking is the skill that will help them comprehend information properly in mutual references and use it an innovative, creative way.” – Ondrej Homola, Czech Republic

To get a sense for how the field of games-based learning is evolving, you need look no further than Corinth, Ltd. CEO Ondrej Homola. Early on, Homola realized that gaming technologies could be much more than entertainment, and that the technology could facilitate deeper learning and more advanced critical thinking. So he set out on a journey to create learning technology that helps students understand complex issues in a highly visual and engaging way. His company’s new Windows 8 app, Corinth Micro Plant, is available free at the Windows Store. I demonstrated the app on the main stage at the Partners in Learning Global Forum in Prague to an enthusiastic crowd – you can watch the video I recorded here since then in studio about Windows 8 Education. Additionally, this video below will give you a sense for what that immersive experience looks like:

Today, Homola shares with us his philosophies on education, the benefits of “interpassive” (vs. “interactive”) interfaces, and his enthusiasm for visual learning.

What drew you to the field of education? Why is it important to you?

What initially drew me to the field of education was when I realized that serious gaming technologies could be used in ways other than just entertainment. Our original technology “DreamWalk” is mainly used in smartphones and allows people to understand complex issues better and more easily. Its visual possibilities help to understand certain principles which might be too difficult to simply imagine. I am fascinated by telling visual stories – letting a user be microscopically immersed in a plant leaf, describing how engine works, as well as different perspectives of atoms and molecules, or offering possibilities to visit Ancient Egypt or International Space Station. For me it’s important to give a complex perspective but in a simple, intuitive way. This helps to retain students’ attention and help them create their own way of critical thinking that, in the end, allows them to absorb information more thoroughly.

Can you tell us about a favorite teacher, or someone who made a difference in your education?

It was my history teacher in primary school. She was generating an interest about history that motivated us to study more and pushed us to discover things on our own.

Please describe how your professional achievements have advanced innovation in education.  What has changed as a result of your work?

Interpassivity is a crucial principle here. What I mean by this, is an advanced approach delineating boundaries of interaction and focusing on the main aim of learning. By setting the space of a possible interaction, we let the user gain the most important and attractive knowledge from the studied matter, but we still lead them and drive the appeal for the topic they are interested in. Interpassivity enables the user, immersed into the studied subject, to gain the important knowledge, but also to follow his/her own interest within the studied subject.

Interactive interfaces, such as smartphones, are a very powerful tool – popular, handy and visual. Interactive 3D and augmented reality are software technologies capitalizing on these possibilities. The past two years have shown us one very important fact — it is not full interactivity, but rather interpassivity — the stories with possible story lines already written and letting a user move within an already delineated script, which drives a user`s interest in a topic. That’s the logic we have been discovering ourselves and in collaboration with universities, K-12 education, museums, and in communication with NASA.

How have you applied technology in innovative ways to support your work?

Innovative technology is our core focus. About five years ago we took gaming technologies and asked ourselves: “Is there a way to grasp this technology and take it into a completely different direction?” So, we started this exciting journey. We took architects, designers, a movie director and other experts into our team and started our “DreamWalk” technology, our original, visual technology. We see huge potential in smartphones and tablets for the future, and we are especially aware of huge possibilities for augmented reality in education.

This leads me back to principles of interpassivity. What I find really enhancing in our work are the visual possibilities resulting from the DreamWalk technology. An example of its further development – the Corinth Micro app – represents an educational solution that moves the learning activity toward a deeper experience of the knowledge.

Let me explain what I mean. This application’s 3D environment symbolizes the real physical immersion into the studied matter. Immersed in its three-dimensional environment, we can nearly touch the viruses and bacteria around us. But, it is not just the imitation of sensual experience and physical movement that is enhancing the process of learning; it also helps us understand the mutual connections within the studied matter. That’s very important because it lets us absorb the knowledge thoroughly and stimulates our critical thinking. To sum it up, we have advanced the possibilities of educational story telling.

In your view, what is the most exciting innovation happening in education today?

I`m fascinated with projects like the Khan Academy, Coursera, Udacity.  It’s amazing how quickly these projects are growing and attracting users across the world.

Is there a 21st century skill (critical thinking and problem solving, communication, collaboration, or creativity and innovation) that you are most passionate about? Why?

Critical thinking. Today, young people are much more exposed to enourmous amounts of information. Critical thinking is the skill that will help them comprehend information properly in mutual references and use it an innovative, creative way.

One very interesting, necessary skill I’m currently thinking of is financial literacy.  Students are exposed to enormous amounts of information and communication regarding money – credit cards, bank acounts,  loans, etc. But they lack a true understanding of how these concepts operate. We are currently focusing on this topic and we might have several great tools in development in the near future.

If you could give one educational tool to every child in the world, what would it be? Why?

If I could give a tool to every child, it would be freedom — freedom as state of mind, freedom of possibilities without borders, and the opportunities that result from it.

What is your country doing well currently to support education?
In the 60s, Czechoslovakia was producing more motorcycles than Japan. And now the Czech Republic has a highly developed automotive industry. Reputable technical education has been the backbone of the Czech economy for decades.

How must education change in your country to ensure that students are equipped to thrive in the 21st century?

Students nowadays are expected to be more independent in developing projects. They are supposed to have stronger communication and presentation skills. This is the direction the Czech Republic has started following, I think. Also I’d love to see a stronger entrepreneurial drive among the students, especially in the ICT field.

About Ondrej Homola,

  • Birthplace: Vsetin, Czech Republic
  • Current residence: Prague, Czech Republic/San Francisco, California, USA
  • Education: MA, Economics
  • Website I check every day: http://www.techcrunch.com, https://www.twitter.com
  • Person who inspires me most: My father
  • Favorite childhood memory: Playing theatre with my classmates in kindergarten
  • Next travel destination (work or pleasure): London (work)
  • When was the last time you laughed? Why? One minute ago thinking about my Childhood memories
  • Favorite book: The Lord of the Rings
  • Favorite music: Jamiroquai
  • What is the best advice you have ever received? Help yourself.
  • Your favorite quote or motto: Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

To see what I presented at the Partners in Learning Global Forum in Prague, see below.

And if you’re interested in participating in a conversation about games-based learning or interactive learning environments, go to the Hot Topic page on the Partners in Learning Network.

Partners in learning Network
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