Virtual Worlds at MYSA Conference
Virtual Worlds at the MYSA Conference
Here are some notes for my presentation today, for attendees plus anyone else wanting an overview of our virtual worlds program.
- text to 0429 883 481 the code 248329 and your response to:
"Name a space, and make an observation about it."
- you can see the results here: http://www.polleverywhere.com/free_text_polls/LTIwNDYwMDU0NTM
- ok so what range of characteristics do classrooms tend to have?
- go to www.realaudienceproject.com and click anywhere to see how my school uses virtual 'stage' space where the students are positioned as performers for a global audience.
- go to www.secondlife.com and get an account, download the software, and start exploring.
- read below to find out ahead of time what Steve will say! Press play on the videos, but turn your sound down!
Intro: Technology is Space
Technology is space. Space mediates relationships. The question for any technology, including virtual worlds, is “How does this space mediate relationships?”
For example, YouTube may contain world-class quality explanations of key concepts in various fields. This space establishes a new relationship between the creator of the resource and the students, even though they have never met (an author/reader or surrogate teacher/student relationship) and reframes the relationship of the local school teacher to the students (reframing the teacher’s role as ‘mentor’ or ‘troubleshooter’). Interesting this relationship-shift can occur without the local teacher being aware of it. I mean, the student realises they don’t need the teacher as a source of information or explanation, but the teacher is unaware their assumptions about their role are redundant.
3D Virtual Worlds
‘3D Virtual Worlds’ is a broad description. All kinds of commercial (World of Warcraft) and non-commercial (Minecraft) games, and self-consciously educational (Quest Atlantis) spaces fit this
description. What is a game? What is a space? Plenty of blurring here, and vast numbers of young people gain a wide variety of skills in these environments with no involvement by school at all. (It should make us go pale to consider our school could be the place the young person goes to where the learning ceases for 6 hours a day).
At my school, I have driven the establishment of two 3D virtual world spaces, the first with ‘Second Life’ and the second with ‘Open Sim’. Second Life have closed their teen service, so now we are left with ‘Open Sim’.
The two look similar, and in fact you use the same program on your computer to access each: the ‘Second Life’ program.
How We Set Them Up
With our original Second Life island (run by the company Linden Lab), we payed to have a locked-down space created for us, although we had account-control, i.e. I could set up accounts manually for our staff and students only.
With Open Sim, we pay a company called ‘Reaction Grid’ to run the main program on their computer server, and then students connect by running the Second Life program on their computer, with a special redirect option that links them to our server. Again, we have account control. We pay about $175 a month for this.
We’ve then asked Reaction Grid to set up for us a mass-import tool so I can set up, for instance, an entire year group of students. The tool also allows us to preconfigure what new users will look like and what objects they will have in their inventory.
Finally, Reaction Grid installed ‘Sloodle’ on our server so that we can integrate our 3D world with our Moodle learning management system.
Frankly, both Open Sim and Second Life are dogs of programs. They are not elegant, or reliable, or easy to set up, or easy to access.
However they also allow for hyper-engagement, -creativity, -collaboration. For me it’s well worth the trouble for the benefits, but I can’t pretend it is an easy project.
How We Keep It Safe
Let me be brief:
- We induct volunteer leaders who are particularly protective of the space.
- Everyone agrees to a behaviour charter before getting an account. Download The New Booralie Charter. It is extremely strict and enforced harshly.
- Students can only log in from home once I have a Download Booralie Parental Permission Open Sim from parents signed. I see this as little different from excursions.
- Leaders wear special leadership-hat, and students logging in from home wear a special log-in-from-home hat. They get these items from me. This makes it easy to identify them.
That’s about it. The space is safe because of the culture maintained by our leadership group. Once a week the leaders and anyone else who wants to meet up with me at lunch. Students swap information and techniques and showcase their work.
What Happens in the World
The best way to understand this is through this video:
- Students learn to build, and code the world, and run their own incredible projects. They teach each other, and make it all happen under their own steam.
- In addition, teachers run directed, structured activities designed to promote understanding through discussion, and also to drill or explore basic skills.
A New Possibility – 3D Courses Using Sloodle
‘Sloodle’ is a series of 3D manifestations of Moodle tools, such as the ‘assignment’, ‘choice’ and ‘quiz’ tools. The student self-registers by clicking on a booth in the 3D world. From then on, when they interact with the special 3D tools, data comes in from Moodle and is returned to Moodle on their behalf.
For instance, this is footage of my Year 8 French students sitting on a quiz chair. As they answer the questions, the chair goes up into the sky if they get the answer right:
I have now set up special towers which students ascend via three tiered quiz chairs. Right up the top of each tower is a special password – their quest!
There is incredible potential for 3D courses to be developed. Students could explore the course in 3D space, like a pilgrim, and the journey of learning could move from figurative to literal, in a space that is virtually physical. I know of cases where this sort of thing is happening in universities, and there must be other High School examples too. For us it is the next step, and for me the French towers are the beginning of something very exciting.