ISTE SIGVE 2012 – Post Conference Momentum or Business as Usual

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Large international conferences always create a buzz, feeling of excitement and lots of talk about “where do we go from here?”  Often it dissipates over the following weeks, not with ISTE’s SIGVE. The ISTE  SIGVE  2012 Playground at the annual … Continue reading


Develop an Alternate Reality Game or Make Machinima

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The VWBPE MOOC  (Massive Open Online Course) has spawned some OOCs.  The first one is an Open Online Course on developing Alternative Reality Games (ARGs) and the second is on creating  Machinima.  Again,  you may choose to participate actively or perhaps … Continue reading


Online Teaching and Learning: From Independent Study to Immersive Collaboration

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I come across an article several times a week that describes a K-12 district or a state’s efforts for offering the opportunity  for students to “learn online”.  Higher education has been involved with online/distance learning for a longer period of … Continue reading


Virtual Pioneers To Host History Conference 2012- Virtually

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The Virtual Pioneers are hosting the Second Annual History Conference 2012 on Friday, January 20 – Saturday January 21.  All educators, particularly those who teach the Social Studies are invited to attend this fun, free event online. You will need to … Continue reading

Managing a Virtual Environment Classroom

The traditional physical classroom has not changed much in the past hundred years.  It contains desks and chairs for students, a teacher desk and chair, a board on which to write or project and wall space which is often decorated with appropriate curricular materials. The most important instructional resource in the classroom is the teacher. A skilled teacher manages the space, materials, furnishings, and students to ensure that students are engaged and learning.  A virtual learning space has less boundaries and limitations and a skilled teacher is again the most important resource.  The teacher must  manage the three-dimensional virtual space, guide students to navigate and interact with the environment and provide experiences to ensure that learning takes place.

Often virtual learning spaces are a replica of the traditional, providing a frame of reference for participants and taking advantage of the potential available in a virtual setting with ‘backchannel’ chat and follow-up assignments.  Teachers and students understand the traditional role of  “sage on the stage” and play the respective roles in the virtual setting, with the added benefits of a virtual setting.  Students can be physically in the same room using computers (a lab setting) requiring both real world and a virtual world classroom management strategies or in remote locations which would require more intensive virtual strategies to ensure engagement of students.  The teacher must :

  • Plan
  1. Design experiences which are interesting, relevant and aligned to curriculum objectives
  2. Plan appropriate amount of time for completing of tasks
  3. Provide direction and guidance so that students know expctations
  • Deliver and Guide
  1. Give clear directions
  2. Encourage questions and answer according to the protocol established
  3. Circulate (virtually and/or physically) among students to provide individual support and ensure engagement
  4. Institute a “buddy” policy for peer support
  5. Intervene when necessary

Norma Underwood uses both real-life and virtual world classroom management strategies to ensure learning for 5th - 8th grade art students on her sim in Reaction Grid.

VW – What’s the Point? Would a score help?

I have been in a cloud – in a trough of disillusionment.  As I encourage colleagues and superiors of the potential in using VW for teaching and learning – and actually get some to register and spend some (limited) time in a virtual world, I get the questions “So what is the point?”  or  “Ok I kinda get it – but is this the best way to…?”  Both are valid questions and questions like these require a thoughtful response.  Some people get it right away, others need guidance, support and demonstrations.  Many need proof – yes metrics.  A hunch is great, a description of happy children makes for good feelings but nothing works like data.

Rubrics are an effective way to capture observations and quantify what participants accomplish and the way in which they do so.  A simple rubric design may look something like this:

Communication Collaboration Problem Solving Use of Information Points
Objective: Participants will work together in teams of … to …..
Participant has minimal communication with other participants Participant works alone Participant has no unique contribution Participant includes only known information 1Points


Participant uses voice to effectively communicate with peers Participant demonstrates ability to work with 1 to 2 individuals primarily as a follower Participant participates in solving problems in a unique way Participant contributes to information by completing some research 2points


Participant uses both text and voice to collaborate with peers Participant collaborates with peers as a follower as well as a leader Participant provides unique contributions to solve problems Participant contributes with both known and newly researched information 3points


Participants would benefit knowing how well they are doing and the objective in the use of the environment needed to succeed. Success depends on the process. So points are awarded when students

  • work with others to accomplish a task
  • communicate effectively
  • locate and use information effectively

Social Learning in Immersive Environments

Much is discussed on the topic of Social Networking and the potential use of this technology in education.   Research indicates that individuals benefit from a social approach to learning.  L. Rendell et al. states that “Social learning (learning through observation or interactionwith other individuals) is widespread in nature and is centralto the remarkable success of humanity…” .  Immersive environments have gained acceptance in post-secondary education for the past several  years. VLearning: Is The Future Of Online Education A 3D Virtual Classroom? describes several studies that determined a positive correlation between the increased interaction among classmates and instructors in virtual classrooms and involvement in the course work and comprehension of material.  It states, “… this to be particularly true for students who have a difficult time engaging in face-to-face discussions, but who will ask questions freely and contribute to live debates in a virtual classroom.”

In their book The New Social Learning Bingham and Connor devote a chapter to the topic of social learning in immersive environments, describing the successful uses in multiple corporate training programs.  Social learning involves interaction, engagement and mutual exchange and benefit to participants.

The research on the  successful use of immersive environments in professional development and post-secondary education are certainly reason to consider exploring these strategies in the K-12 sector.

21st Century Teacher Preparation Using VW

Prospective and veteran teachers have an opportunity to participate in a teacher preparation/training model using the virtual world of Second Life at West Virginia University.  The program at West Virginia University has found it to be particularly useful for math and physics training, an area of concern for schools across the US.

Universities in general seem to have explored VW technology more readily than the K-12 sector, perhaps the safety/security/liability concerns have something to do with it.  Their incoming students are over 18, certainly more tech-savvy than their predecessors, and professors are quickly becoming more digitally literate to support the student population they serve.  It seems that a pre-requisite for attending college today is a computer.  How this translates to the more cautious K-12 sector is still up to policy makers.  At the very least, the new teaching force will have a digital comfort and will use the digital environment to enhance their own content knowledge via learning strategies that seem to translate theory into application effectively.   The VW teacher preparation can also provide opportunities to learn teaching strategies that do not require digital methods.   Role playing in a “traditional classroom setting” can take place more frequently and without disrupting learning in an actual classroom.  Prospective teachers can pre-practice with avatars before actually practicing in an actual classroom with real children, thus honing skills and building confidence.

Change is not easy. Although K-12  teachers are currently using VW with their students for standards-based learning and 21st Century skill acquisition, the numbers are comparatively low.   Perhaps new teachers coming out of universities that use the technologies will help us to make some changes in the K-12 sector to update and benefit teaching and learning.

Beyond Powerpoint: 2D to 3D in Virtual Worlds

In an in-world presentation, Lesley Scopes aka Light Sequent presented ‘Learning Archetypes as tools of Cybergogy: A structure for eTeaching in Second Life to VWBPE 2010.  The presentation was worth watching  for the information that was presented, but of particular interest was the presentation method.  Lesley used 3D world tools to present rather than bringing the more frequently used 2D tool (PowerPoint) into the 3D world.  This made the presentation more engaging than presentations I typically attend.   The 3D models brought a unique physicality to the presentation that served to interest the audience.

A 3D representation is used to make a point

The presentation took advantage of tools not available in a 2D platform and perhaps demonstrates the evolution of 2D to 3D much like the evolution of overheads to PowerPoint was a few years ago.  Using the tools available in virtual worlds requires that the presenter have some skills in the area of building.  Light Sequent explained that the 3D items could contain scripts for additional interaction between audience and information 3D graphic. At the very least the presenter should be able to place the correct 3D object in front of the audience at the appropriate time but the actual building of the objects could be built by someone adept at building.

I look forward to using this method of presentation in the future, though I’ll need to label objects carefully so I don’t accidentally place a shoe or a silly gadget in front of my audience.

Learning Spaces

Listening to A Lecture

I attended the Second Life ISTE speaker series June 1st, regarding learning spaces.  The speaker categorized learning spaces as formal, informal and virtual.  This would seem to indicate that Virtual World spaces are only virtual, but that is not the case.  The virtual environment contains formal and informal spaces within its’ ‘virtualness’.  Perhaps it is more what you do with the spaces than what they are or what they look like.

A traditional classroom is a formal space, yet teachers often manage those spaces in ways that engage students in untraditional ways.  A teacher in a classroom with desks, even desks in rows, can engage students in an informal, non-didactic way ( though a different setting may be more amenable to this).

During the ISTE Virtual session, the avatars all sat in an auditorium and the setting was certainly visually formal, yet it was virtual space.  The speaker did not talk-at, lecture non-stop or read from 30 powerpoint slides.  The speaker engaged the group by asking very pointed questions and then responded to the chatter in local chat.  Participants also “talked” among themselves without disturbing the group, so there was an informalness to the presentation despite the visually formal setting.  This strategy would not work as well in a face-to-face formal setting because of sound/noise. The ability to discern salient comments would be impossible.

Organization of visual space, virtual or real, certainly contributes to how the space is used, but it does not need to dictate the way the space is used.  A skilled teacher will be able to conduct learning experiences that are effective and can usually adjust in spite of the setting.   An exception would obviously be a lab or studio requiring specialized equipment.  In planning for the teaching and learning that will take place in any space the instructor must consider the content, objectives, target audience and learning styles.

Floating in space