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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

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.

Virtual Worlds as Part of a Transmedia Literacy Experience

Transmedia Storytelling is a strategy that uses current and emerging technologies along with traditional strategies to enable the participant to become immersed in a story to increase engagement and understanding.  Henry Jenkins, Professor of Communications, Journalism, Cinematic Arts, and Education at the University of Southern California, explains that “In transmedia, elements of a story are dispersed systematically across multiple media platforms, each making their own unique contribution to the whole.” It is a strategy that is used in the world of marketing and entertainment, still lagging in the education sector.

Telling stories across multiple platforms and formats addresses multiple learning modalities, encourages participation and motivates participants.  Stories are used to teach a wide variety of concepts at all levels of education.  A virtual world with a sim designed to draw students into a “game”  could potentially result in a high level of learning of a literary work, historical event, or scientific phenomenon.  The compelling attributes of transmedia storytelling are the capacity to engage participants and the capacity to promote creativity among the participants.  Engagement is crucial to meaningful learning and creativity is identified as a 21st Century skill necessary to solve problems and be competitive in a global environment.  As we look into school reform and teacher preparation for 21st Century schools it may be beneficial to ensure that teachers have some knowledge and skills in the the use of Transmedia storytelling.

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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Teaching as a Game Designer

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Teaching as a “performing art” has validity.  In the book with that title Seymour Sarason compares teacher preparation to performer preparation,  describing that a teacher must practice, be articulate, know the curriculum (script) and engage the audience. We all remember … Continue reading

Telling isn’t Teaching… in any World

A lecture hall filled with students and an instructor lecturing about a topic he/she knows very well does not guarantee learning is taking place, neither in real life nor in the virtual world.  Good teaching requires that the students do something in order to meet the objectives of the lesson.  Student engagement can range from taking notes and asking questions to discussing and working on an assignment that requires using information and skills. The level of engagement correlates with the learning that takes place.  The video below is one created by students at Elisabeth Morrow School in Englewood NJ.  Students undoubtedly learned more than the significance of Apollo as they interacted, on various levels, to create the video.  Additional work from middle school students at this school is posted on their wiki.

Some videos illustrating the concept of changing our teaching paradigm are Ken Robinson’s Changing Education Paradigms and  Dr Tae’s Building A New Culture of Teaching And Learning .   They are not short videos but definitely worth a watch…. and a share.  The men in these two videos describe eloquently how teaching needs to change in order to impact student learning, I suggest teaching in the virtual world should have a level of engagement similar to what they advocate.

Educators who have ventured into the virtual world have some innovation and sense of adventure to begin with – just by their presence.  Instruction in the virtual world must mirror that innovation by changing the paradigm, making sure that students (whatever their age) do more than “just sit there”.  Getting students to move into groups and perform activities in the real world requires classroom management skills, and an impact on space, time, and sound that could be disruptive if not handled with expertise.  The virtual world has these elements but   it is easier to move and alter the space, it takes less time, and sound can always be mitigated with individual headphones and microphones.  The part that takes some effort is ensuring a student focus. At the lowest level of engagement, the instructor should ask students/participants for feedback and then address the questions.  For more intense interaction and more learning the instructor can:

  • provide students with instructions to complete a task, either as individuals or in a group
  • have students present findings or completed tasks to the group
  • have students develop video clips and/or pictures of concepts to be shared on a common site

In either world,  the person doing the communicating is the person doing the learning.

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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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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

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