Wow, can’t believe I’ve now spent several hours in a virtual world (VW) – SCU’s Islands in Second Life (http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Southern%20Cross%20University/130/31/454). I’ve been aware of what virtual worlds are for some time but never seen any point, thought it was only for kids and nerds who wanted to interact but were afraid to do so in the real world!
I walked, ran, flew, sailed, took the tour, teleported, swam, sky-jumped (without a parachute!), and played tennis. On the positive side, there was no-one else on the island except the artificial avatars, to see me, the noob, make a fool of myself as I learned to control my avatar. And, I even won at tennis, which if truthful, was fairly easy without an opponent!
On the negative side there was no-one else on the island for me to interact with. Even so, I did still spend hours there, so who is the nerd now!
Actually, it was very interesting and I was obviously engaged enough to interact with the different areas and features of the islands for all that time. I’d imagine it would be even more engaging when involved in specific learning tasks with others. Calongne (2008) highlights the presence factor which makes the VW learning experience more stimulating than traditional online learning methods such as Blackboard. She goes on to highlight various aspects of VW that combat the passive nature adopted by many students in a classroom environment.
In relation to TAS subjects such as Design and Technology and Engineering Studies, I can see that VW offer the chance for students to be involved in collaborative learning exercises that will help to build upon both their teamwork and project management capabilities. It can also help develop their creative skills, as well as their knowledge in relation to the built environment. Dulwich High School (Mac Macquarie, 2011) and Global Kids Online Leadership Program (2012) demonstrate this through videos showing their VW sustainable cities and climate change projects. Although they may be working in a VW, the knowledge and understanding achieved is transferrable to the real world.
At the moment I see something that could be time consuming for developing anything of significance, and may only be enhancing the learning experience at best rather than redefining it. After all, a variety of 3D graphics packages already exist in the field of design and students are already successfully working in teams as they develop their projects. VW do have potential though and it’s definitely worth investigating further as a means for stimulating learning and developing the higher-order thinking skills required for 21st century learning.
Calongne, C.M. (2008). Educational frontiers: Learning in a virtual world. Educause review, 43(5). Retrieved from https://learn.scu.edu.au/bbcswebdav/pid-3290072-dt-content-rid-1544895_2/courses/EDU10713-2013-3/VW93_Calogne_2008.pdf
Global Kids Online Leadership Program. (2012). Rio+20 the future we want. Retrieved from http://olpglobalkids.org/virtual-worlds/machinima/virtual-video-project
Mac Macquarie. (2011, November 23). WHEN2050 3D walkthrough [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g4akI13JIjc&feature=uploademail