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WoW in Education: A MOOC Adventure

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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

Teachers Tackle Machinima: A Week in The Life of the VWBPE MOOC

Teachers attend Machinima Monday at the Montmarte Theatre in Second LIfe.

The second week of the 4-week VWBPE Games and Education Tour MOOC had a Machinima focus.  What fun to watch and participate with fellow educators as they crammed an incredible amount of energy, curiosity, intellect, humor and talent into developing machinima to help us all learn to do it better and to help our students with machinima as a learning strategy.  The word that kept cropping up was FUN…and fun it was, sometimes funNY.

The week started with a Second Life Machinima Monday meeting with non-educators, an introduction to some machinima created by artists using this medium to relay emotions and ideas.  There was much discussion on technical issues…aspect ratio, capture tools, in world camera devices, editing software, special effects, space navigators to name a few.  Always a benefit to get a different perspective.  Our Hostess, the gracious and talented Chantal Harvey facilitated the conversation and welcomed teachers to join the digital artisan group.

Discussing a possible script with an alien avatar – the alien ended up in the movie Sand Surf Saloon.

The remainder of the week consisted of working groups, and some individual work on machinima with the of using the medium for teaching and learning.  The MOOC participants were all comfortable in virtual environments and some, though not all,  had significant comfort with creating machinima.  The week was an opportunity for educators to work together on a machinima project and reflect on the potential use with students and in delivery of instruction.  K-12 and higher education educators worked side-by-side, incorporating strategies, taking on a variety of roles (script development, actor, director, machinimatographer, builder, costume designer, sound editor, video editor, stunt actor, special effects editor), and collaborating to complete a project in less than 1 week.

Attendees enjoy teacher created machinima at the Gaity Theatre on Second Life.

The exercise served to help us understand what we can expect of your students and what skills our students will need and will develop as they participate in this kind of learning activity.   The culminating activity was a Premier held at the Gaity Theatre on Caledon in Second Life, a tour destination from week 1 of the MOOC.

As the ISTE Conference this summer draws near, this talented group of machinima educators will continue to polish off their work and encourage colleagues and students to submit their digital creations to the ISTE EDUmachinma Fest.  No doubt we will have entries form the growing number of virtual worlds and from a growing number of participants.

The VWBPE Machinima developed last week:

Sand Surf Saloon; Cowboys and Aliens
http://staff.tamucc.edu/jdoan/MOOC/Cowboys and Aliens.mp4

Learning is unveiling

VWBPE 2012 Volunteer Appreciation
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LT9awygCNWk&feature=youtu.be

SIGVE Machinima Promo
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VxAOVridPhA&feature=youtu.be

Mosel SL machinima
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1TYn35BZPpM&list=UUsmGs7RECdj5gYym7t4ohVQ&index=2&feature=plcp

They Came for the Cavorite
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jzj6oDfq8T0

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.

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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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

Constructivist Learning, Virtual Worlds and Future Work Skills

Teachers know that differentiating instruction is most effective and that the more involved in the learning a student is, the more that student will learn.  Thus knowledge/concept retention from lecture is significantly less than from group discussion and actual practice by doing.  As educators we also know that when an individual “teaches” or provides instruction to another they learn it better themselves.  Using gaming in a constructivist teaching environment has merit. The theory of constructivist learning comes from the philosophy that people can understand only what they have personally constructed.  The nature of constructivism:

  • is interdisciplinary with the emphasis on the learner rather than the teacher
  • requires that the learner interacts with the environment and gains understanding
  • ensures the student making meaningful connections
  • requires problem solving
  • requires personal involvement
  • is based on the application of concepts to be learned

Constructivist teachers structure learning experiences that foster the creation of meaning,  building lessons around big ideas to foster learning.  Virtual worlds used in a way that students can build, collaborate, solve problems, and teach others certainly are aligned with the tenets of constructivist teaching.

According to Gartner information, the  World of Work in 10 Years will require a similar set of skills:

  • Work Swarms -problem solving with less structured  situations
  • Weak links – work with people you don’t know or barely know
  • Working With the Collective informal groups of people, outside the direct control of the organization
  • Spontaneous Work new opportunities and creating new designs and models.
  • Simulation and Experimentation active engagement with simulated environments
  • Hyperconnectedness – existing within networks of networks, unable to completely control any of them.
  • Virtual workplace – meetings occurring across time zones and organizations  increasingly happen 24 / 7

The alignment between  constructivist learning and skills for the future make teaching in a virtual world an obvious option.

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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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

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.


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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