A lecture hall filled with students and an instructor lecturing about a topic he/she knows very well does not guarantee learning is taking place, neither in real life nor in the virtual world. Good teaching requires that the students do something in order to meet the objectives of the lesson. Student engagement can range from taking notes and asking questions to discussing and working on an assignment that requires using information and skills. The level of engagement correlates with the learning that takes place. The video below is one created by students at Elisabeth Morrow School in Englewood NJ. Students undoubtedly learned more than the significance of Apollo as they interacted, on various levels, to create the video. Additional work from middle school students at this school is posted on their wiki.
Some videos illustrating the concept of changing our teaching paradigm are Ken Robinson’s Changing Education Paradigms and Dr Tae’s Building A New Culture of Teaching And Learning . They are not short videos but definitely worth a watch…. and a share. The men in these two videos describe eloquently how teaching needs to change in order to impact student learning, I suggest teaching in the virtual world should have a level of engagement similar to what they advocate.
Educators who have ventured into the virtual world have some innovation and sense of adventure to begin with – just by their presence. Instruction in the virtual world must mirror that innovation by changing the paradigm, making sure that students (whatever their age) do more than “just sit there”. Getting students to move into groups and perform activities in the real world requires classroom management skills, and an impact on space, time, and sound that could be disruptive if not handled with expertise. The virtual world has these elements but it is easier to move and alter the space, it takes less time, and sound can always be mitigated with individual headphones and microphones. The part that takes some effort is ensuring a student focus. At the lowest level of engagement, the instructor should ask students/participants for feedback and then address the questions. For more intense interaction and more learning the instructor can:
- provide students with instructions to complete a task, either as individuals or in a group
- have students present findings or completed tasks to the group
- have students develop video clips and/or pictures of concepts to be shared on a common site
In either world, the person doing the communicating is the person doing the learning.