Practical Examples of 3D Virtual Environments for Learning in High School
Eight weeks after our students first entered our 3D virtual world, called 'Booralie', I can now say we have a suite of learning activities to showcase. We use 'Second Life' software to run this environment.
In this video I show a wide range of examples of how students are learning in this space, both in student-directed ways (developing high-order skills such as creativity, collaboration and project-management) but also in structured, teacher-directed ways.
I show activities we've run that are specific to Maths, Visual Arts, Music, and Languages, but also plenty of activities that are generic and transferable across different subject areas and ages - especially discussion based activities that rely on text chatting.
Every single one of the activities meets my two golden criteria of being low effort (for the teacher) but high impact (for the students). We've avoided the sort of activity whereby you spend hours recreacting the city of Paris or Ancient Rome for the students for one fabulous lesson. Instead we ask 'what are the inbuilt potentials in the rules of this world? Text chat quizzes are a good example. The Poinkey's Pods speed dating discussion tool is another classic. These ideas harness the potentials of the environment for learning with very little prep time.
This video is the culmination of an extraordinarily busy term. It has been the ride of my life, utterly exhilarating. It has been bliss learning new teaching skills.
Picture me in the first few lessons with my Year 8 French class trying to manage them all in the virtual world... figuring out how to get them to the same place on the island, working out what instructions work well and which work poorly. I hit the jackpot when we opened up the disco and I realised that students feel under pressure if just asked to 'chat in French', but will gibber away blissfully while on a virtual dance floor.
Then there is our virtual radio station, virtual art gallery, the upcoming customisable maths maze, our virtual bookstore, and so on and so on.
I finish in the video remarking that this sort of environment is obviously not the be all and end all. It is simply a teaching tool, or learning space, that deserves inclusion in a teacher's repetoire. Students relate naturally to this sort of virtual environment. They're hyper-engaged by it. Many students spend many hours in similar environments outside school time.
I strongly argue that there doesn't have to be anything light-weight about activities in a virtual world. Activities in a physical classroom can be light-weight, or intense and productive. The same goes for a virtual space.
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