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The Virtual Globe

June 2, 2010

In preparation for my graduate studies, I began to wonder which technologies will be needed the most in education.  My UBC application looked at the DGlobe, a fictional device for the classrooms designed by the author Douglas Coupland in jPod, and while I don’t know if I can amass the same resources as he proposed to actually create such a device, I began to think what applications could (and should) be created.  It suddenly came to me… the Virtual Globe.

I know, it sounds a little derivative, but instead of satellite cartography this device will recreate the world inside the Globe Theatre, famed for mounting most of the complete works of Shakespeare.  It really can’t be too hard to design: there are numerous sketches and floor plans of the building, the stage and audience could be full of Weta-ed players and patrons, and most importantly, we have the complete works of William Shakespeare, already part of most high school curricula.  What needs to be done, and I am willing to commit some serious academic time to this project, is combine all these elements to give students a 360° view of what happened inside this historical site.

I can imagine what some of the critiques of the Virtual Globe may be, and have come up with some responses.  First of all, the Globe has already been rebuilt, and the plays of Shakespeare are frequently performed around the world.  There is no reason to cancel the school field trip out to see such a performance, even for those lucky enough to make the trip to London.  However, there will be an ease of access, brought right into the classroom, of any and all of the plays without the cost and organizational challenges of such field trips.  Plus you have all the features common to most DVDs: pause, rewind, zoom and maybe even commentary tracks.  Secondly, the complete works are already in print, widely obtainable and would promote literacy better than any video or virtual reality could.  Not to knock the time-honoured tradition of reading a book, but one must also consider that the original author never intended his (or her as some scholars have put forward) works to be read by anyone but the actors.  No performance of the plays, whether on stage, on film or this proposed virtual reality will ever be able to accurately recreate the experience of being in late 16th century London.  However, just as Shakespeare’s contemporaries and fellow King’s Men John Heminges and Henry Condell compiled the collected works for the use of future generations, perhaps this sort of virtual application was exactly what they wanted, all those years ago.  Finally, I suspect many other faults could be found for having such technology brought into the classrooms, teachers who will find it difficult and unwieldy to use, and detractors who would claim the whole idea is doomed to fail.  In response to all of the above, to borrow the lines from Shakespeare: “screw your courage to the sticking place, and we’ll not fail.”

The 1998 Oscar-winning film Shakespeare in Love showed us the insides of the Rose and the Curtain up-close with all the comings and goings of the players putting on a play.  Students should be allowed access through the Virtual Globe to explore the plays, the people and the traditions this historic site has provided the world.

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