I’m not sure yet what I think about virtual worlds for learning. Being an external student, I do like and can see the benefits of some virtual learning SPACES such as the SCU Blackboard site, but virtual WORLDS with avatars…I’m not sold on. I’ve never liked computer games so the idea of going into a virtual reality and designing buildings or talking to people even about topics I love, doesn’t really interest me. I love the person to person interactions and I love the ‘real’ interactions I have with my kids in the classroom. Nothing beats seeing their faces when they finally understand a concept or how proud they feel when I praise them, to me this is priceless. So the act of moving all this into a virtual world, becoming a virtual person, is a notion that I struggle to see the point in. I know even myself as a learner would not enjoy ‘learning in a virtual world’ and would actually be disengaged with the lessons or activities I had to be a part of. Aside from my own opinions, I do realise that this world we live in is vastly changing and the fact that students these days are all about technology and are experts in using it means I need to try to change my perceptions surrounding virtual worlds. It has been proven that virtual worlds are a valuable tool to use in order to successfully engage students in active learning and because of this, I am committed to ‘opening my mind’ to operating outside of reality. The video embedded in our week 3 study notes shows the practical uses of virtual worlds in education. It outlines that Virtual worlds can be used two ways:
1. Undirected unplanned learning experiences where students work together to build infrastructure and design their ‘learning’ world together as a team.
2. Directed supervised structured learning tasks that will target specific skills, also encouraging collaborative learning and partnerships.
Creating these worlds enhances the higher order thinking skills of creating and analyzing of the students. Also teamwork and collaboration is paramount. A great skill for our students to learn and practice. Building infrastructure, designing gallery’s etc is great for problem solving skills and for the kids share their ideas. I just think that it is also important for kids to learn how to communicate, collaborate and share with each other in reality not just in the virtual worlds.
So first step in this mind opening process was for me to create my own second life account. It didn’t go so well. After creating my avatar and entering into the first world, I attempted to change the clothes and appearance of my avatar, something that I actually think I would have enjoyed. This proved to be so difficult with glitches occurring every time I went to change anything. I really don’t have time for computer games when they don’t do what they are meant to or if they are difficult to navigate at the best of times, and I could feel my mind closing again quickly. I decided to give up on the appearance and move through to the different worlds within Second Life. I went into the Oxford University space and went up close to read the posters. They were out of focus and I couldn’t read anything. The music playing in the background was nice though. I then tried to fly…again I wasn’t impressed. I think that I have a long journey ahead of me (and possibly a one on one tutorial session about second life) when it comes to loving virtual worlds. I WILL continue on this quest, as it’s a vital tool in enhancing the learning and engagement of my students…and that as a teacher, is the most important thing.