Gallery

Hour of Code in an MMORPG and an Immersive 3D Environment

This gallery contains 4 photos.

I will be joining ISTE’s SIGVE and the IB Educators Guild in WoW  in on an Hour of Code to celebrate Computer Science Week and to advocate for teaching coding at all grade levels.  This will be at least my third … Continue reading

Gallery

WoW in Education: A MOOC Adventure

This gallery contains 4 photos.

The VWBPE MOOC took me into WoW last week.  It was a bit of a learning curve, but  my Virtual World (SL, RG, Opensim) experience did give me some frame of reference, particularly with basic movement and communication skills.   … Continue reading

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.

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.

Spatial Training in a Virtual World May Improve STEM Skills

Studies over the past 50 years indicate a significant, positive correlation between spatial thinking and STEM disciplines.  Project Talent is one of those studies to support spatial training among our students.  Findings indicate that thinking with images plays a central role in scientific creativity and communication.

Determining a path on Core1 in Reaction Grid

Participating in a virtual world incorporates spatial thinking on a variety of levels.  As consumers, participants in a virtual world deal with location, shapes,  object’s relationship to each other and verbal descriptions such as near, far, next to, on, and under.  In order to traverse the digital terrain they need to be able to move and to communicate spatial concepts.

On a more complex level participants may rearrange furniture, complete puzzles, move objects, and use maps, all contributing to spatial thinking.

Using a map to locate an event on Second Life

In a virtual world workshop

As producers in the virtual environment, participants build and script.  Building requires assembly, measurment, visualizing 3D models and reproducing them or creating new ones.  Producers can build real or imagined structures, vehicles, objects and clothing.

Virtual worlds could, used effectively, provide formal and informal learning models for STEM learning environments.  With the recent announcement of Race To The Top Winners, significant funding is allocated towards the STEM disciplines school districts may have an opportunity to expand and research this promising environment.

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.

'Building' a block

Teaching Math in The Virtual World

Mathematics may be one of the most obvious ways to use a virtual world for teaching and learning, particularly when students are in the building capacity.  Students can practice applying   mathematical concepts, while being creative and having fun.  Geometry comes alive as an avatar creates and moves 3D shapes around to construct a real or imagined structure, graphical representations are concrete rather than theoretical.

A geodesic structure in SL

A bridge in Reaction Grid

The tools in the virtual world are simple enough that even elementary school children can use them.   Learning to use these tools may even provide some preliminary knowledge and skills for future use of  more complex engineering CAD tools. Once the students create the shapes (which takes seconds) the 3D polygons can be moved about, enlarged or reduced in size, stacked, linked, rotated, twisted, tapered, even suspended in the air at the click of a mouse.  Students can adjust shapes and angles to fit ‘building blocks’ more precisely, they have the use of coordinates and measuring tools to support their building and learning.  The most important part is the process, not the final product, though the final product may contribute to discussion regarding the feasibility of the structures in real  life.  The process of building and solving the problems of fitting virtual shapes together to construct a planned structure is what makes students think and apply the mathematical concepts.

'Building' a block

Adjusting dimensions of the cube.

Rotating the adjusted cube.

Here an avatar creates a cube and then transforms it to a thinner taller rectangular shape, then rotates it to get it in the correct position.

The syllabus of an educational technology class at Boise State is an example of prospective teachers being provided an opportunity to learn  the skills necessary to use this medium for future instruction in K-12 classrooms.  There are multiple examples of K-12 teachers providing ‘building’ opportunities on the SL Teen Grid and on Reaction Grid  to their students. As these students apply mathematical concepts and address required standards they also practice some 21st Century skills such as innovation, collaboration and problem solving.


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.