The Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education (VWBPE) Conference will take place in Second Life, with tours to other virtual environments, on March 15-18. Conference organizers are requesting those interested to register for the event at http://vwbpe12.eventbrite.com/. The free conference … Continue reading →
Virtual Environments are plentiful and increasing. With dozens of Grids on Opensim such as Franco Grid, Jokadia Grid, Reaction Grid, and ScienceSim, and a rising number of additional stand-alone virtual worlds there are hundreds of engaging environments, many of which are used for teaching and learning … Continue reading →
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 →
The Virtual Pioneers are a group of educators interested in using virtual environments in the teaching of Social Studies, particularly history. The group meets on Sunday evenings at 8:00PM EST at the EduIsland location on Second Life. They are taking … Continue reading →
I’ll leave predictions and trend reporting to others, but I can assess my activity and plan for what I hope to learn and do this coming year. Perhaps it will be helpful for teachers with ambitions in innovation for teaching … Continue reading →
This morning as I sat down with my morning coffee and iPhone I had a pleasant surprise, someone had nominated this blog for the “Best ed tech / resource sharing blog 2011” and….. this very blog is on the list … Continue reading →
Each time that I attend a professional meeting in a virtual world the question of general adoption of virtual worlds in education always comes up. Attendees at these events are the early adopters and they struggle with what is so obvious to them. The barriers are inter-related and will require time, money and effort to overcome.
Cost is often cited as a barrier. Linden Lab eliminated educational discounts on Second Life. Grids on OpenSim are significantly cheaper but do not contain the assets of SL and other more developed worlds, developing these would take time and money. Cost is a factor in multiple barriers listed.
Organizations may host their own virtual worlds, reducing some cost. OpenSim and self-hosted grids are typically limited in content but advocates contend that much of the learning lies in the development of this content. There is a growing availability of free and shared content for use in virtual worlds.
Access ( Firewall issues) are more commonly an issue with K-12 than in higher education. This barrier relates to acceptance and perception of virtual Worlds in general. Districts have concern about both student safety and the potential financial liability associated with legal action.
Control systems are necessary to protect students and prevent inappropriate access, teacher supervision coupled with policies and procedures are effective in keeping children and employees on task in an appropriate manner. Literature is mounting in favor of adjusting firewalls and access to support student learning in the 21st century.
Technology requirements of Virtual worlds, both infrastructure of Internet access (bandwidth) and device capabilities aren’t up to the requirements needed to run virtual worlds effectively. IT and support personnel may need training to adequately support staff needs.
Funding for innovation is essential to effectively prepare our students for their future. Grants may be the best solution, at this time, to fund the necessary equipment, infrastructure and training.
The Learning Curve in using the interface and acquiring the comfort to be able to manipulate an avatar and eventually more complex tasks inherent in virtual world participation can be a challenge.
A model of mentoring colleagues, prior to the expectation of working with students, can provide the confidence and skills. The use of a virtual world for professional development is a possible evolutionary step to use with students.
Change is difficult. Educators need convincing that a virtual world delivery model will be better than what currently exists.
Research demonstrating effectiveness could be the most useful in changing minds. Those who are effectively using virtual worlds for instruction should publish/share their work.
Attitudes towards gaming and virtual worlds can be negative based on some unsavory stories and misconceptions.
Marketing of research and positive examples are needed to overcome the impact of negative attitudes. There is mounting research in the area of games, student engagement and their positive influence on learning.
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.
Content-based describing the use of VW for teaching and learning
Workshops offering technical guidance
Tours of virtual spaces used for education
Panel and roundtable discussions
Tools for both newcomers and experienced virtual world users
Game and simulation demonstrations
Machinima screening and competition
Experienced virtual world participants will have the opportunity to learn and share with a global community of educators. This is also an opportunity for experienced users to introduce more reticent colleagues to an environment that offers an alternative format for teaching and learning.
Text allows you to think about what you are communicating, seeing the written word allows for some processing and editing prior to clicking the send button. Text can also be saved and referred to at a later time, always beneficial. Text is the preferred method to communicate when language translation is required and the appropriate communication with hearing impaired students. The downside of text is that it is difficult to simultaneously demonstrate while communicating in text. Another potential drawback is “text speak” and typos. Though typically understood there is potential for misunderstanding and it develops a habit of ignoring typos and using abbreviations. A class participant must be able to read and follow instructions in text. This has potential for problems depending on the audience and individual capabilities. Responding to individual questions in IM texting can be confusing (not seeing the message, having too many message boxes open, blocking view of the screen due to message boxes).
Voice allows an instructor to deliver a message the way that an instructor delivers in a real life classroom setting, a clarification is immediate and intonation is clear. The lack of visual cues requires an instructor to use other methods to engage students and to ensure the message was delivered. Ideally the students are also using voice so that 2-way communication can take place. This requires an etiquette system of watching the screen for who is speaking, listening to the spoken text and speaking at a specific pause, so as not to interrupt the speaker. It requires that the communicators listen more carefully than they may do in a real life classroom. The teacher must also be watchful of students as they are performing particular tasks in the virtual setting. The teacher needs to continuously move the camera around and watch students to ensure that students are performing tasks as directed, providing appropriate verbal direction as needed.
The ideal strategy is to use both text and voice. This addresses various learning styles and takes advantage of the pros of each method, minimizing the cons. This can be done is several ways. The instructor can:
provide notecards with vital information, in text, to supplement the spoken instruction.
type main ideas as he/she speaks.
have an assistant or student type the text as he/she speaks.
take advantage of the back channel in local chat to address questions
Teachers should practice the strategies in order to become comfortable and adept at using them, ultimately selecting which is most appropriate.