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.

Machinima Learning at the VWBPE Conference 3/17-3/19

The VWBPE Conference has a number of events to support machinima endeavors for both novice users and experts.  The sessions are being held at different locations on the VWBPE 20 sims built in a Steampunk motif, just for this event.

20 Sim site on SL built specifically for the event 3/17-3/19.

March 17, 2011

March 18, 2011

East - Location of Screening of the VWBPE Machinima entries (popcorn is included)March 18, 2011

  • 3:00 – 4:00 PM SLT-  Machinima 4 Mere Mortals: Machinima Working Group – Intro. to Machinima East – EM 1/2
  • 3:00 – 4:00 PM SLT How 2 Use Machinima as Part of Your Class: East 1 – East 1/2 Teen Fair
  • 8:00 – 9:00 PM SLT-VWBPE Machinima Screening: East – EM 1/2

March 19, 2011

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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

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Sharing Educational Machinima

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Multiple sites exist for sharing video, including Machinima, Wikipedia has an ‘almost’ comprehensive list. Each has benefits and drawbacks, selecting the right one depends on your goal, there are special considerations when the focus is education rather than entertainment, though … Continue reading

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Virtual Learning Communities Flourish

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Learning communities (LC) are active in the virtual environment,  consisting of like-minded individuals who have a  common interest and get together regularly over long periods of time  to both share and gain knowledge and skills.  Many of the learning communities … 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.