On march 15-18 many of my virtual colleagues met to provide and to attend numerous presentations on several educational topics, mostly the use of using virtual environments in education, at the VWBPE Conference. Learning will continue via the MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) to anyone interested. The week I am facilitating, with a little help from my friends, will begin with a field trip to Machinima Monday’s meeting. The Machinima Monday group focuses on machinima and though not a group of educators they are undoubtedly learners and supporters of learning for those interested in the topic of machinima. They are a Professional Learning Community.
Groups like New Citizens Incorporated, Builder’s Brewery and Danish Visions in Second Life provide classes for building and scripting in 3D. These groups also provide a vehicle for communication (the group chat) even when one is not in a specific class. The global members of these learning communities respond to questions and offer resources and advice 24/7. Groups in OpenSim worlds work the same way as they do in Second Life, though the response time may not be as quick depending on time zones and times. The peer coaching/mentoring attributes of professional learning communities are evident in these groups and other groups associated with a multitude of focus areas and the support often occurs through a variety of web-based resources such as blogs, wikis and other social media outlets.
I began to participate in virtual worlds because I had an interest, thought it would be useful for education and my job, and it looked like fun. My learning is evident in what I can do and what I can describe though I didn’t get inservice points or a training stipend, am not listed in a LMS for my learning and I can’t use my learning for recertification. I’ve participated in a number of authentic learning communities, learning from and with those in other industries as well as from and with fellow educators. Learning experiences have been both in synchronous and asynchronous formats. Much of my collaborative learning has been done with those from other communities, states and countries. My virtual PLC pals are generous with sharing what they know and generous with their time. We exchange e-mail, respond to tweets and blogs, and meet in the virtual world to demonstrate, try something new or just talk and reflect. My virtual world PLC activity does not require rubrics, criteria, checklists, rules or forms. I just show up and participate to whatever extent suits my needs.