Federal Virtual Worlds Challenge

An open challenge to create the most innovative and interactive solutions in virtual environments.

http://www.fvwc.army.mil/

  • $25,000 in prizes
  • Focus on AI
  • Open to everyone
  • Submission due date Dec 6 2010

Spatial Training in a Virtual World May Improve STEM Skills

Studies over the past 50 years indicate a significant, positive correlation between spatial thinking and STEM disciplines.  Project Talent is one of those studies to support spatial training among our students.  Findings indicate that thinking with images plays a central role in scientific creativity and communication.

Determining a path on Core1 in Reaction Grid

Participating in a virtual world incorporates spatial thinking on a variety of levels.  As consumers, participants in a virtual world deal with location, shapes,  object’s relationship to each other and verbal descriptions such as near, far, next to, on, and under.  In order to traverse the digital terrain they need to be able to move and to communicate spatial concepts.

On a more complex level participants may rearrange furniture, complete puzzles, move objects, and use maps, all contributing to spatial thinking.

Using a map to locate an event on Second Life

In a virtual world workshop

As producers in the virtual environment, participants build and script.  Building requires assembly, measurment, visualizing 3D models and reproducing them or creating new ones.  Producers can build real or imagined structures, vehicles, objects and clothing.

Virtual worlds could, used effectively, provide formal and informal learning models for STEM learning environments.  With the recent announcement of Race To The Top Winners, significant funding is allocated towards the STEM disciplines school districts may have an opportunity to expand and research this promising environment.

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The Value of Play

This gallery contains 4 photos.

Play connects us to others, fosters creativity, helps with social skills, motivates and increases cognitive growth, according to Vygotsky’s research on play.    We like to play and we learn from playing, so playing in a virtual setting seems to be logical enhancement … Continue reading

Teaching Math in The Virtual World

Mathematics may be one of the most obvious ways to use a virtual world for teaching and learning, particularly when students are in the building capacity.  Students can practice applying   mathematical concepts, while being creative and having fun.  Geometry comes alive as an avatar creates and moves 3D shapes around to construct a real or imagined structure, graphical representations are concrete rather than theoretical.

A geodesic structure in SL

A bridge in Reaction Grid

The tools in the virtual world are simple enough that even elementary school children can use them.   Learning to use these tools may even provide some preliminary knowledge and skills for future use of  more complex engineering CAD tools. Once the students create the shapes (which takes seconds) the 3D polygons can be moved about, enlarged or reduced in size, stacked, linked, rotated, twisted, tapered, even suspended in the air at the click of a mouse.  Students can adjust shapes and angles to fit ‘building blocks’ more precisely, they have the use of coordinates and measuring tools to support their building and learning.  The most important part is the process, not the final product, though the final product may contribute to discussion regarding the feasibility of the structures in real  life.  The process of building and solving the problems of fitting virtual shapes together to construct a planned structure is what makes students think and apply the mathematical concepts.

'Building' a block

Adjusting dimensions of the cube.

Rotating the adjusted cube.

Here an avatar creates a cube and then transforms it to a thinner taller rectangular shape, then rotates it to get it in the correct position.

The syllabus of an educational technology class at Boise State is an example of prospective teachers being provided an opportunity to learn  the skills necessary to use this medium for future instruction in K-12 classrooms.  There are multiple examples of K-12 teachers providing ‘building’ opportunities on the SL Teen Grid and on Reaction Grid  to their students. As these students apply mathematical concepts and address required standards they also practice some 21st Century skills such as innovation, collaboration and problem solving.


NASA STEM Challenge for Grades 9-12 InWorld

A competition from NASA provides a challenge for High school students, in 2 phases. In phase 1 students have an opportunity to work cooperatively, in teams of three-to-five students, as engineers and scientists to solve real-world problems related to the James Webb Space Telescope. Final solutions from this first phase of the challenge are due on Dec. 15, 2010.

Teams who complete Phase 1 are then paired with participating college engineering students for Phase 2, the InWorld phase of the challenge. Each InWorld team will refine designs and create 3-D models of the Webb telescope.

For more information about the challenge, visit http://www.nasarealworldinworld.org/.

Cultural Evolution

The sophistication of the modern world is a collective enterprise, according to Matt Ridley Humans:  Why They Triumphed – WSJ Saturday May 22. This notion validates the collaboration those in virtual worlds often make reference to.  I know that my learning has been positively impacted through the collaboration I have had with “friends” I have never met, friends who live in another time zone and in a different culture than mine.  My “experience”  is richer through my interaction with others who share my interests but not my geography.  Trade, in ancient times, caused ideas to spread and cultures to evolve – today we can trade ideas and move the evolution of culture through online  activities in virtual worlds.  What are the implications for our students?  The 21st century Pen-pal can be an avatar who works with someone from a different culture and solves problems in real-time.  Am I being overly hopeful that this would bring greater understanding between people?