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WoW in Education: A MOOC Adventure

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The VWBPE MOOC took me into WoW last week.  It was a bit of a learning curve, but  my Virtual World (SL, RG, Opensim) experience did give me some frame of reference, particularly with basic movement and communication skills.   … Continue reading

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VWBPE 2012 – The Sequel….MOOC

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Conferences are a great immersive experience effective in igniting action and implementation of new ideas.  The VWBPE 2012 Conference has provided an abundance of ideas, from using virtual games (yes games) for learning to using virtual environments for business and … Continue reading

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Genetic Study via Virtual Pets and Plants

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Can the virtual world SL breedable pets such as  Meeroos and breedable plants such as Sibotanicals provide some opportunities to learn about biological and botanical genetics?  The breedables are an amusing addition to the virtual setting, as the scripting progresses, the concepts of DNA and … Continue reading

Geography Standards via Terraforming and Virtual Mapping

Forming continents, islands, mountains, valleys and rivers works with mashed potatoes, beach sand, mud in the back yard and pixels in the virtual world.  Terraforming physical landform characteristics including  mountains, valleys, rivers, oceans, lakes and beaches is as easy as a click with a mouse on the correct tool and then sliding or moving the mouse in a circular motion to raise, lower, flatten, roughen and smooth the land.

The terraforming tool options are basic and easy to understand

The size of the area as well as the strength of the tool is adjusted as desired.  A little practice in an empty “sandbox” is typically enough to get the “feel” for pressure and size attributes.  Adding Flora and fauna to the newly formed topography is an opportunity to learn about climate, elevations and ecosystems.

A map view of a sim on Reaction Grid

Geography standards include various elements of map reading.   Reading the maps in a virtual world and being able to zoom in provides not only the opportunity for recognizing the use of a legend, direction, location and distance, but also the ability to see  influences of hydrology and physical characteristics of a place.

Middle School Students Build A Virtual World

The students in “Norma Underwood’s” class in an Arizona public school are building and scripting in a 3D environment, sculpting in Rokuro, collaborating on projects, and communicating with their peers and interested visitors.  I had the opportunity to visit Norma’s  virtual class space on Reaction Grid,  never having to leave my home state over 2000 miles away.  What a treat  to see 12 and 13 year olds assembling, communicating and cooperating in a medium that many are completely unaware of.

The class is an art class, lucky for these students they have a teacher who acknowledges and has taken the time to learn an art medium for the future.  The young architects and 3D artisans have used floor-plans to build 3D homes, decorated them and added items like video games and chess sets. Learning objectives  focus primarily  on standards in the area of art and mathematics. Additionally, Norma is incorporating 21st Century objectives like collaboration, communication and problem solving.  These are not as easily tested in the traditional assessments required by the state but obvious in the products the students have created and obvious as well when you watch them engaged in their work.

Virtual Worlds as Part of a Transmedia Literacy Experience

Transmedia Storytelling is a strategy that uses current and emerging technologies along with traditional strategies to enable the participant to become immersed in a story to increase engagement and understanding.  Henry Jenkins, Professor of Communications, Journalism, Cinematic Arts, and Education at the University of Southern California, explains that “In transmedia, elements of a story are dispersed systematically across multiple media platforms, each making their own unique contribution to the whole.” It is a strategy that is used in the world of marketing and entertainment, still lagging in the education sector.

Telling stories across multiple platforms and formats addresses multiple learning modalities, encourages participation and motivates participants.  Stories are used to teach a wide variety of concepts at all levels of education.  A virtual world with a sim designed to draw students into a “game”  could potentially result in a high level of learning of a literary work, historical event, or scientific phenomenon.  The compelling attributes of transmedia storytelling are the capacity to engage participants and the capacity to promote creativity among the participants.  Engagement is crucial to meaningful learning and creativity is identified as a 21st Century skill necessary to solve problems and be competitive in a global environment.  As we look into school reform and teacher preparation for 21st Century schools it may be beneficial to ensure that teachers have some knowledge and skills in the the use of Transmedia storytelling.

Teaching and Learning Options in the Virtual World

The virtual environment offers students alternative ways of learning concepts.  Educators understand that differentiating instruction is important and that we should not limit ourselves to telling and explaining.  The information in a lecture or demonstration is magnified when students are given an opportunity to actively engage in an activity that provides a way for students to practice, apply or even play with the new content.  A community college professor demonstrates a virtual world activity designed to follow a lecture and provide  students a chance to “build a molecule” in virtual space.

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Build a Virtual Biome to Master Science Standards

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Environments in virtual worlds can be realistic or fantastical, each has benefits for students both as visitors and as creators.  National and state educational standards require that students can identify, describe and understand the differences in both land and water-related … Continue reading

Evidence vs Adult Intervention

Remember the clubhouse in the woods you built with your friends.  It was your clubhouse.  You and your friends thought of it, planned it, gathered materials, constructed it, fought about it, fought in it, plotted in it, pretended to be super-heros or knights in it, and then probably tore it down because it seemed like a good idea and it was yours to tear down.  Remember the playhouse that the little girl down the street had.  Her father built it for her.  It was a beauty; A door with hinges and a door knob, heart-shaped shutters, flower-boxes, shingles, matching curtains and furnishings.  She had a birthday party and everyone got to go into it but you couldn’t “mess it up”. Nobody really played there much, it collected spiderwebs.  It sat forever – a monument to adult intervention.

As I listened to the ISTE Speaker Series on SL Tuesday night, Knowclue’s message was most profound.  She said she is a stickler on students building and making their own environment in SL Teen Grid and now on Reaction Grid where she provides instruction.  I sat in the audience and asked “what evidence do you have of student achievement?”  My thoughts were focused on what so many educators are thinking about:  test scores, numbers, Adequate Yearly Progress, achievement data, standards.  Of course these are important quantifiable data points and so is the remarkable build that her students created.

A student build in a virtual world - minimal adult intervention.

The evidence is that children built a community based on a unit of study.  The student Build required the use of communication, collaboration and problem solving (those 21st Century Skills).  It required the use of mathematics and integration of an artistic sensibility.  The students had to read/research and take notes, write, and compute.  Knowclue has a clue and she also has evidence.  The student product is the evidence.  The students will be tested in the standards at the end of the year and those scores too will be reviewed – together they form the picture of evidence.  My hunch is the students who build will demonstrate more learning gains than the students who have it built for them,  look to the evidence.