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 ( 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

Global Kids Online Leadership Program. (2012). Rio+20 the future we want. Retrieved from

Mac Macquarie. (2011, November 23). WHEN2050 3D walkthrough [Video file]. Retrieved from


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.


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

Luca, J. (n.d.). SAMR – A model for instructional technology use. Retrieved from

NSW Department of Education and Training. (2010). Connected Classrooms Program in Action. Retrieved from

Prensky, M. (2001). Digital natives, digital immigrants. Retrieved from,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf

A 21st Century Learning Environment

It’s the last day of 2013 and time to “out with the old and in with the new”. My name is Gary McGovern and I am a …………….. Digital Immigrant (Prensky, 2001). Sounds like I’m admitting to a problem, and maybe so!

I thought I was fairly tech savvy having being around when the internet was established and already using pc’s from the days of old (who remembers a 286?). Coming from the pre-pc age it is easy to assume new technology will stay current a lot longer than it actually does. Also, it doesn’t seem that long ago that relatives were sending audio cassettes between Australia and Scotland to keep in touch  (okay, maybe it does!). Real-time communication (phone calls) was a lot more expensive back then.

Nowadays it seems like we are in an ever increasing rush to reach the point of I don’t know what, and the only constant is change but one thing seems certain, if your not on the techno train it doesn’t take long to get left behind. Children of all ages now have a myriad of technologies at their disposal and are captivated by the variety of ways to communicate.

Both my sons got a tablet for Christmas this year and if I’m being honest, it was really only so that I could get my laptop back, …thank you Santa! However, other benefits of having their own mobile technology are quickly becoming apparent. A couple of nights ago the 9yr old stayed with his gran and instead waiting until he was home to have a chat he sent me an email. He has also downloaded quite a few apps and helps his 4yr old brother do the same. He sometimes wanders off to his room (usually to watch a youtube video with his brother so that they can practice their dance moves) and comes back later to proudly show what he has learned. He’s also creating his own catalogue of dinosaurs, gleaming facts from various websites, and plays Jurassic Park Builder, deepening his knowledge of concepts such as extinct animals and their habitat, infrastructure and economics.

I guess this reflects some of the features of my ideal 21st century learning environment…. engagement, personalised learning, variety, collaboration, and mobility through physical and virtual worlds (and me with my own laptop!). In my KLA of Design and Technology and Engineering Studies I would like the physical environment to be comfortable, flexible and fun. It would need to be complimented with a mixture of equipment and resources (chairs, lounges, desks, meeting tables, flipcharts, whiteboards, IWB’s, pc’s, cameras) to enable integration of the students physical and virtual worlds. This will allow them to self-direct their own authentic learning, both as individuals and as collaborators and to deepen and express their learning, using a variety of resources.

Looking over my 9yr olds shoulder, I seen him type that this was “the best Christmas ever”. Probably a bit too optimistic to expect this level of joy in the classroom but it shouldn’t be too much to expect that the students are happy when they arrive and also when they leave.

On a cautionary note, always remember to assess digital learning, not everything is interpreted accurately. About 6 months ago I asked my 4yr old where he lived, …”Australia”, and where does Grandma and Grandpa live? “in the computer.” He wouldn’t have made that mistake in the pre-Skype days!


Prensky, M. (2001) Digital natives, digital immigrants. Retrieved from,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf