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Gartner Hype Wave

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Always good to triangulate your data – 1.  The Gartner  Hype Cycle/Wave indicates that “Virtual Assistants & Public Virtual Worlds are nearly through the Trough of Disillusionment, about to enter mainstream in 5-10 years” 2.  Recent Grant activity encouraging the use … Continue reading

Virtual Literature Circles

Facilitating a literature circle takes skill and even the most practiced practitioners sometimes have challenges in encouraging the reticent to speak up.  In her article “The Virtual Circle” Stacy Kitsis describes how she used blogging to support student participation and thoughtful reflection. This English teacher describes a number of positive observations including increases in engagement and interaction, completion of homework, and active reading.  Ms. Kitsis described how the more reticent students chose to use pseudonyms for their blogs and were ‘not shy’ with their entries.

The success described could be taken a step further by conducting the literature circles in an immersive environment.  Positive aspects achieved in blogging could be even more enhanced as students use their avatars to reflect and discuss the selected literature.  The discussions could take place in voice or in text, the latter offers an archival benefit.

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.

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Machinima in Education

Creating films for learning is not new in K-12 education nor has the strategy  been limited to magnet programs or exclusive schools that offer high-level technology classes and/or broadcasting.  Teachers have used filmmaking  as a way to help students learn … Continue reading

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The Value of Play

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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

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Can a Paracosm in a Virtual World Contribute to Creativity?

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According to a recent Newsweek article, The Creativity crisis, the Creativity Quotient (CQ) among American children has been dropping steadily since 1990.   This drop in CQ correlates with the exclusive focus on the teaching of standards and the preponderance of television … Continue reading

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/.

Collaboration is a 21st Century Skill

Avatars collaborating on making hair

Employers complain that the incoming workforce lacks what is needed.  Are we preparing our students appropriately for their future?   Tony Wagner in his book, The Global Achievement Gap discusses what he calls the 7 survival skills for the 21st century.  According to him these skills are:

  1. Problem-solving and critical thinking;
  2. Collaboration across networks and leading by influence;
  3. Agility and adaptability;
  4. Initiative and entrepreneurship;
  5. Effective written and oral communication;
  6. Accessing and analyzing information; and
  7. Curiosity and imagination.

These are the kinds of things we discuss in our annual reviews with supervisors and we know these skills make us more productive and useful to the organization.

Most of these 7 skills are supported with project-based  participant production in a virtual environment.  Student production in virtual environments involves building, scripting and researching to develop content.  This type of activity lends itself to a collaborative atmosphere and the ‘network’ across which students collaborate can extend across the globe. (Collaborative building in Second Life – Palo Alto Research Center). Problem solving takes place while planning and again while producing.  Limitations must be considered and decisions about the best solution take place for effective results.  Students must use mathematics and communication skills as they work together to complete their intended product.  They may need to do some research and analyze information as they progress in their building.  Discovery can take place and a plan may change or students may need to adapt a plan and influence colleagues toward a different approach.  Of course, curiosity and imagination are always at play as students build what defies common perceptions and sometimes the laws of physics.  It is the process that is most important here, what the students have to do to achieve their goal – not the final product.

Virtual Environments and Education

In virtual environments students are able to experiment with identity and develop shared values. As they use and interact with the environment and objects, observe and interact with others, student participants can experientially develop a deeper understanding of a theme, topic, period of time, or concept. Since players are offered many options and the environment responds to their choices, student-players often feel as if they are in control of their learning and, as a result, own their learning process (Herz 2001).

Some students claim that they learn more through an online game than they would have if they had only read the text (Van 2007). Additionally, scaffolded activities are likely to create a safe environment with minimal risk of failure or embarrassment (Steinkuehler 2004).  Virtual environments enable students to practice skills vital to the world of work including but not limited to collaborating, communicating, critical thinking, navigating and evaluating resources. The power of play is motivating for some students ( Squire 2005), another feature available in virtual environments.