Is Machinima The New Diorama? or Flipping Academic Fairs

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Jokaydia monitors children ages 4-16 in constructing spaces in Minecraft. Students use video capture and editing software to make machinima. This student built space is a historical complex.

Ask a 10-year old how they know something or learned to do something and the answer may very well include “I saw it on YouTube”.  With “Digital Literacy” and Coding being recognized as skills required for future success, and employment, it seems to make sense to update academic fairs to  include digital elements beyond word processing.  Perhaps instead of cardboard box dioramas, sugar-cube structures and  tri-fold cardboard displays we could accomplish learning objectives with machinima, digital storytelling, websites, blogs, wikis and 3-D digital modeling.  This is not to diminish the use of art supplies and creativity in the visual arts.  Manual dexterity and artistic expression is important, but not the primary objective of Academic Fairs.


A Traditional Academic Fair Display begins in a school with winners being displayed regionally at a local Mall or Library.

Many of us have participated in promoting, supporting , guiding or  completing the work for a child participating in an academic fair.  I still remember a 2:00 AM crying  moment and my older brother helping me (actually he did the whole thing with exception of the windows that just were perfectly illustrated with a tap of a magic marker) to make a model of the Pentagon.  To this day I know very little about the Pentagon (the empire state building would have been so much easier) but I did learn some geometry, some research skills, collaboration (sort of), time management (after the fact), and I am still a night owl.  It is the process that is important.  The artistic work and use of materials, though an obvious focus to fair attendees, is secondary to what the student learns.  Whatever I learned through my 6th grade Social Studies Project experience, was not reflected in my brother’s ability to construct models.

Machinima made by capturing video in an immersive environment or video game and edited with sound, music and dialog to depict a historical event, literary work, or scientific concept requires research, planning, and time management skills.  Building a model in a 3-D environment like Minecraft requires planning, sometimes research, digital literacy, creativity and time management.  Developing a website requires similar skills.  Each of these digital possibilities requires the same basic skills that traditional academic fair projects require, in addition to digital literacy.  Collaboration is not  typically included as an objective in academic fairs, though parents and older siblings are sometimes involved.  Including collaboration as an objective would align to Common Core Standards and 21st Century Skills and the collaboration would likely include peers.   Parent involvement may actually be flipped in this model, with the student guiding the parent to understand the digital environment, particularly as it applies to immersive or game environments.

Time and space become less of a barrier as a local fair can potentially expand to a global fair with public views and even community “up votes”  on deserving entries.  Collaboration with peers from different geographic locations could potentially help prepare today’s students to collaborate globally as adults.  It seems logical to take advantage of  the use of digital spaces by our youth to include academic endeavors.  The Information Revolution has provided almost anyone the ability to share what they know and are are able to do.  Some of the YouTube videos being watched by 10-year olds have been created  by other 10-year olds, sharing what they know and are able to do.  An academic fair project posted on the web has potential to generate interest and extend learning beyond what an individual child learns from a 20th Century academic fair project.  As educators we can support, guide, monitor and inform this kind of activity by our students.

Teachers Tackle Machinima: A Week in The Life of the VWBPE MOOC

Teachers attend Machinima Monday at the Montmarte Theatre in Second LIfe.

The second week of the 4-week VWBPE Games and Education Tour MOOC had a Machinima focus.  What fun to watch and participate with fellow educators as they crammed an incredible amount of energy, curiosity, intellect, humor and talent into developing machinima to help us all learn to do it better and to help our students with machinima as a learning strategy.  The word that kept cropping up was FUN…and fun it was, sometimes funNY.

The week started with a Second Life Machinima Monday meeting with non-educators, an introduction to some machinima created by artists using this medium to relay emotions and ideas.  There was much discussion on technical issues…aspect ratio, capture tools, in world camera devices, editing software, special effects, space navigators to name a few.  Always a benefit to get a different perspective.  Our Hostess, the gracious and talented Chantal Harvey facilitated the conversation and welcomed teachers to join the digital artisan group.

Discussing a possible script with an alien avatar – the alien ended up in the movie Sand Surf Saloon.

The remainder of the week consisted of working groups, and some individual work on machinima with the of using the medium for teaching and learning.  The MOOC participants were all comfortable in virtual environments and some, though not all,  had significant comfort with creating machinima.  The week was an opportunity for educators to work together on a machinima project and reflect on the potential use with students and in delivery of instruction.  K-12 and higher education educators worked side-by-side, incorporating strategies, taking on a variety of roles (script development, actor, director, machinimatographer, builder, costume designer, sound editor, video editor, stunt actor, special effects editor), and collaborating to complete a project in less than 1 week.

Attendees enjoy teacher created machinima at the Gaity Theatre on Second Life.

The exercise served to help us understand what we can expect of your students and what skills our students will need and will develop as they participate in this kind of learning activity.   The culminating activity was a Premier held at the Gaity Theatre on Caledon in Second Life, a tour destination from week 1 of the MOOC.

As the ISTE Conference this summer draws near, this talented group of machinima educators will continue to polish off their work and encourage colleagues and students to submit their digital creations to the ISTE EDUmachinma Fest.  No doubt we will have entries form the growing number of virtual worlds and from a growing number of participants.

The VWBPE Machinima developed last week:

Sand Surf Saloon; Cowboys and Aliens and Aliens.mp4

Learning is unveiling

VWBPE 2012 Volunteer Appreciation

SIGVE Machinima Promo

Mosel SL machinima

They Came for the Cavorite


Digitally Amplified Literature in the Virtual World

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Rod Humble of Linden Labs recently described the Virtual World as “creative space”.  Jeddin’s Underground City sim on Second Life is a creative space melding the ideas of Descending Road author/creator with 3D artistry and SL scripting to make what the artist … Continue reading


Living Literature in Virtual Worlds

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The use of Virtual Worlds to explore and enhance the literary experience is a useful activity for pre-reading, ongoing as a specific piece is read, and/or  as reinforcement after the reading is complete.    The value of a virtual world in … Continue reading

As The Virtual World Evolves

Many virtual worlds require the downloading of a particular viewer to access the virtual world and to interact with it.  Some require nothing but the web, a browser and a current operating system.  Jibe is one of those worlds which I was able to visit recently.

Walking amongst giant chickens in JIbe. They clucked and pecked but I survived.

The look  is similar to OpenSim or Second Life and the feel is like these worlds in MouseView, kind of takes getting used to.  Creating in the environment seems less laborious than the virtual worlds  I typically visit.  The creation/building tool, available as a free add-on, is reminiscent of what you see in a typical graphics program.

A flat terrain in JIbe is "brushed" with hills.

Changing the terrain is as simple as painting with a digital brush. Adding a field of ferns was a s simple as dipping the brush into the “fern” paint and then brushing the terrain in with ferns.

Ferns "painted" into the terrain do not require individual placement.

I  got the feeling that the creation and building within this web-base world was simpler than in the virtual worlds requiring a special browser.  The interaction was not as smooth or easy for me.  It seemed a little unstable but impressive that any of it could be done on the web on my Macbook Pro in Safari.  Perhaps the potential lies in the limitations and lack of complexity.

The Jibe Tools.

The registration was simple (name and password),  avatar selections are reasonable and there is an asset store with objects for free and for purchase.  The items can be imported into Jibe and placed, moved, and rotated as desired to complete the environment.

A Cart from the asset store is duplicated and added to the environment.

The simplified interaction and limited choices in this web-based world reminded me  of the new “basic” browser in Second Life.  Both types of virtual worlds are changing, maybe to accommodate an audience maybe to make a profit, maybe because people have a natural inclination to improve and change what they have.  For whatever reason, the end user will ultimately benefit.

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.

VWBPE Conference Begins with Authentic Enthusiasm

The Virtual World Best Practices in Education Conference  began on March 17 with over 200 attendees either on one of the 20 sims,  watching on treet tv, and/or following on Twitter.

Botgirl Questi and her alter ego presenting the Keynote Address.

Botgirl Questi and her alter ego delivered the keynote address discussing identity, multiple personality capability and the use of virtual identity for positive change.  The session was recorded and can be viewed at Treet TV.

Following the keynote, educators from around the world transported their avatars to multiple venues and grids to learn more about the use of virtual spaces for education.  Two more days of expert presentations are scheduled.

A variety of social events including multiple person bicycle rides and music and dancing at an Irish pub are available all 3 days.

The builds, a collaborative effort of  many hours, are elaborate and imaginative creations in a Steampunk theme.  All 20 sims will be dropping into the pixel sea at the end of the month so teleport over to and fly around while it is still there.  Take some photos, capture some video and sit in on a session or two.  You may just learn something.


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

Constructivist Learning, Virtual Worlds and Future Work Skills

Teachers know that differentiating instruction is most effective and that the more involved in the learning a student is, the more that student will learn.  Thus knowledge/concept retention from lecture is significantly less than from group discussion and actual practice by doing.  As educators we also know that when an individual “teaches” or provides instruction to another they learn it better themselves.  Using gaming in a constructivist teaching environment has merit. The theory of constructivist learning comes from the philosophy that people can understand only what they have personally constructed.  The nature of constructivism:

  • is interdisciplinary with the emphasis on the learner rather than the teacher
  • requires that the learner interacts with the environment and gains understanding
  • ensures the student making meaningful connections
  • requires problem solving
  • requires personal involvement
  • is based on the application of concepts to be learned

Constructivist teachers structure learning experiences that foster the creation of meaning,  building lessons around big ideas to foster learning.  Virtual worlds used in a way that students can build, collaborate, solve problems, and teach others certainly are aligned with the tenets of constructivist teaching.

According to Gartner information, the  World of Work in 10 Years will require a similar set of skills:

  • Work Swarms -problem solving with less structured  situations
  • Weak links – work with people you don’t know or barely know
  • Working With the Collective informal groups of people, outside the direct control of the organization
  • Spontaneous Work new opportunities and creating new designs and models.
  • Simulation and Experimentation active engagement with simulated environments
  • Hyperconnectedness – existing within networks of networks, unable to completely control any of them.
  • Virtual workplace – meetings occurring across time zones and organizations  increasingly happen 24 / 7

The alignment between  constructivist learning and skills for the future make teaching in a virtual world an obvious option.

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.