Virtual Worlds for teaching and learning

 

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.

References:

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

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New Media and ICT’s

Co-operate, work together, integrate, join forces, team up, participate, combine – these are just some of the many synonyms of collaborate. As mentioned in my previous post, collaboration is one of the key features of 21st learning. Having been in industry for many years I can testify that the word individual is very rarely heard in the workplace – it is common knowledge that the power of many far outweighs the power of one. While there is still an argument in the Technology subjects, and perhaps others, for Direct Instruction and highly scaffolded learning (e.g. the demonstration of how to use workshop tools) students seem to be better engaged and develop a deeper understanding of knowledge when they work together and learn from each other – in other words, when they collaborate in the social construction of knowledge. These days, younger generations spend so much of their time outside school interacting with New Media and ICT’s, it makes perfect sense for educators to incorporate this into their pedagogy and content delivery (Prensky, 2001; Koehler & Mishra, 2009).

Effective use of technology in the classroom can not only help to transform the curriculum (Churchill, et al., 2013, pp.344-350), it can also help to empower students to self-direct their own learning and provide them with a sense of value through their contributions. The key word here is effective as experience from my prac’s shows that quite often technology is used to substitute rather than redefine the learning experience (Luca, n.d.).

The Connected Classrooms Program (CCP) focussed on 3 key initiatives to assist collaborative learning – Interactive Classrooms, Learning Tools, and Next Generation Education Network (NSW Department of Education and Training, 2010). A series of related videos, online resources, and case study evidence demonstrate how these initiatives can and have been incorporated into classrooms to enhance the learning experience, as well as highlighting the relevance of Web 2.0 technologies.

In relation to the KLA’s of Design and Technology and Engineering Studies the CCP’s blogED and video conferencing facilities look particularly useful for helping students share their knowledge and get expert advice from outside the confines of the classroom. IWB’s and Web 2.0 technologies will also be extremely beneficial for collaboration, a concept that is embedded in these KLA’s and typical of the future employment roles that these lead to.

References:

Churchill, R., Ferguson, P., Godinho, S., Johnson, N.F., Keddie, A., Letts, W., …Vick, M. (2013). Teaching making a difference (2nd ed.). Milton, Queensland: John Wiley & Sons Australia, Ltd.

Koehler, M. J., & Mishra, P. (2009). What is technological pedagogical content knowledge? Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 9(1), 60-70. Retrieved from http://www.citejournal.org/vol9/iss1/general/article1.cfm

Luca, J. (n.d.). SAMR – A model for instructional technology use. Retrieved from http://jennyluca.wikispaces.com/TPACK+and+SAMR

NSW Department of Education and Training. (2010). Connected Classrooms Program in Action. Retrieved from http://www.dec.nsw.gov.au/detresources/ccp_in_action_compendium_FNOouLXKim.pdf

Prensky, M. (2001). Digital natives, digital immigrants. Retrieved from http://www.marcprensky.com/writing/Prensky%20-%20Digital%20Natives,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf