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Enhance your Virtual World IQ; Join A MOOC

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Sign-ups for “A Virtual Worlds, Games and Education Tour” MOOC begins today March 7 at the P2P U site.  The 4-week open and free course aligns with  ISTE NETS standards for teachers and gives VWBPE Conference participants more time to deepen knowledge regarding … Continue reading

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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

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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

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

each

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

each

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

each

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
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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

Which Comes First – Problem Solving or Facts?

Perhaps they can be learned together in a more meaningful way. In a Frontline video James Paul Gee makes a case for using video games with students to teach 21st Century skills of problem solving and innovation.

We typically test students on the facts that they know but are less adept at assessing if they can use the facts to solve problems. We often attempt to ensure students know the vocabulary and facts before we give them experiences in which these words and facts are used. They are both important and require the other in order to be meaningful. You need facts to solve problems. A game or virtual environment has the quality of providing an experience in which a student can solve problems and learn facts and concepts simultaneously, they may even learn vocabulary after concepts are learned.

I watched a 7 year old playing a video game called Spore, the concepts were about evolution and biology and the game required manipulating an organism in varying stages of evolution. This little girl solved a variety of problems including avoiding predators, experimenting with mobility and communication and finding shelter and food. Among the concepts learned were the importance of a brain to a living organism, usefulness of camouflage, and the value of mobility types. She does not yet know all the vocabulary associated with these concepts but the frame of reference allows for a meaningful learning of facts and vocabulary. When told the word “predator” and “camouflage” in relation to the images on the screen that she had played with, it made perfect sense and the words were then used in conversation. Interestingly, none of this took place in a school classroom.

James Paul Gee describes games as being best for “preparation for future learning”, to give a foundation and background for learning that will take place later in another mode. What are the implications for children with limited experiences? Could a virtual environment provide that preparation for future learning effectively enough?