I’ll leave predictions and trend reporting to others, but I can assess my activity and plan for what I hope to learn and do this coming year. Perhaps it will be helpful for teachers with ambitions in innovation for teaching and learning.
Participating in a Virtual World does take a little getting used to – I entered Virtual Worlds later than many (2009) with 3 of my colleagues, making it easier and often amusing as we spent time stumbling about underwater, losing hair and bumping into walls. Since those days 2 1/2 years ago 1 colleague has met her true love in SL and got married (for real), another has young children and little time for Virtual World activity in the evenings, and the third is honing her leadership skills in various RP sims. Once I “cleaned up” and learned to walk and talk in the virtual world I was ready to explore. I learned to wield a sword, fly in space, surf epic waves and pilot a steam punk spacecraft. I found multiple grids and visited as many as I could, talking to almost everyone I encountered.
Collaboration and peer support were and continue to be a major theme for me. Learning communities are abundant in the virtual world, seems like whatever your interest, there is a group that meets regularly, charges nothing, and genuinely works to help participants progress. Book Clubs, building groups, teachers, students, programmers, artists, musicians, writers all exchange information, ideas and positive vibes. I joined a variety of groups and can do lots of things but am not yet an expert in any of them. Teachers have invited me into their virtual classrooms, on a variety of grids, to observe and talk with students as they engage in learning. This camaraderie and openness has been a major factor in my continued interest. My fellow educators in VWBPE and ISTE/SIGVE are true learning partners with whom I will continue to collaborate.
I have been exposed to some exciting teaching and learning strategies encouraged by the digital revolution; Immersive storytelling, transmedia, amplified literature, machinima, and gamification are terms I have discussed, read about and seen in action in the past 2 years, not concepts I learned about in my teacher education program in college. These are new strategies employed with evidence of success, strategies I would like to learn more about and help others with.
I gained technical skills as I attended classes and practiced building and scripting. Creating textures, sculpty objects, clothes, animations and machinima gave me a an appreciation for the artists in virtual worlds with perfected skills. Making music in a virtual world continues to be out of reach since I am not a musician, but I did fiddle with sound effects and practiced my Spanish. Though the technical skills are not necessary and not for everyone I feel that it’s good to have a rudimentary knowledge of the creative possibilities. This year I plan to focus more or possibly work with a team to achieve objectives/products.
My advice to fellow educators is to give it a try. It’s not always easy but participating in the expanding Virtual World arena is engaging, fun and holds promise for helping our students with skills they will need as we move along in the rapidly changing 21st century.