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Assess the Past Year and Plan for the New One

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.

Riding across the grid on a steampunk ship.

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.

A group of educators meet regularly to discuss educational uses of virtual worlds.

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.

Learning to script an animation at Danish Visions on SL.

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.

2 comments on “Assess the Past Year and Plan for the New One

  1. A PC just became available in my workplace – an old server no less – so I may be reaching out to you for some help – Another resolution of mine is to create my own little world and I may very well be able to convince the boss to let me use that machine. I do keep up with your info re/simonastick so I’ll let you know how it goes.

  2. outstanding post! and a great call to educators! i’ll add a shameless plug because the purpose of it is to lower the virtual world threshold and make exploration as easy as possible: http://simonastick.com

    it’s free (only for PC though) and is fully self-contained – if you can unzip a file, you can see what a virtual world feels like

    i’m proud that 11% of OpenSim is run from this and i hope many more explore it. it has seen great use from an all girls school in NYC building bridges and animal cells to use by the IS Dept. of Defense

    virtual worlds are a great creative and teaching tool and that’s 100% my focus – STEM exploration with an emphasis on reducing the gender gap in STEM studies and careers =)

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