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.
One thing I would like to see in the 21st century classroom is the increased use of interactive whiteboards and the smart board program. The ‘Connected Classroom Program in Action’ document included in our week 2 study guide clearly outlines the benefits of this type of technology: “Teachers are able to increase the pace of their lessons and offer students more chances for active participation.” My pedagogy already is strongly based on the belief that the relationship between myself and my students is a partnership; that we are on this learning journey together. This is a value that I try to bring into my classroom environments and I’m certain that the IWB is an ICT that will only serve to enhance this. Too many schools have the odd IWB installed, however when it comes to teachers actually using them that is another story. The training needs to be provided to us as educators so we can have a ‘connected’ classroom with the use of this particular ICT.
Using ICT in the classroom allows students to connect, communicate and create together. After watching the ‘connected classroom program’ video my mind is open to just how many great ICT’s are out there to incorporate into the classroom. I love the idea of using video conferencing! In an English class for example, you could organise for authors or poets to video conference in and talk to the kids about one of the texts set for study. I also like the BlogEd tool for students to share and reflect on their learning. The Prezi of Bloom’s digital taxonomy and Web 2.0 tools is a really great resource to guide me in using different ICT’s through the 6 different stages of thinking (lower-order to higher-order)that occurs. The link for this is below:
iPads in the classroom are taking off, with many schools in Victoria successfully using them to extend the level of motivation and engagement of the kids in the classroom. In the video link shown in lecture 2 of module 3, the principals reported that even their attendance records of classes that have integrated iPads into their learning has increased considerably. I look forward to researching more about the use of iPads in the classrooms as I’m only just beginning to scratch the surface! The idea of learning without feeling like your learning is a key concept that teachers need to incorporate into their teaching practices and lesson implementation.
I’m all about collaborative learning, so I know I just have to get out there and learn about all these new media and ICT opportunities that will enable me to create my own ‘connected classroom’.
The video “Learning spaces living places” embedded in our topic 1 study notes, gives us an insight into how students envisage the physical space they learn in. The whole idea of changing the physical way a school operates, not having the normal classroom environments with grey desks, grey walls and the standard whiteboard, is something I believe needs to be looked into . The students in the video had the chance to design their ideal learning environment, one that has an “identity that reflects all people and cultures”. I love the idea of making classrooms feel more like home, with colour, music, cushions, posters and that each student has the opportunity to put their fingerprint on the place where they spend so much of their time. This is more difficult in secondary school, not having set classrooms, but small things could be done like coloured desks and chairs in the classrooms, posters on the walls and the use of music playing in the background whilst students are engaged in group work. One of the schools I went to for Prac even had a collaborative room that teachers could book their class into. There were coloured couches and bean bags, funky paintings on the walls and altogether the feel of the room was relaxed, just like a living room. The kids loved doing activities in the collaborative room, as it felt as if they weren’t confined to their desks. In the world today, where students need so much more offered to them in order to keep them engaged and interested (ICT’s and other advanced interactive programs) why shouldn’t the learning environments we provide for them be engaging and inviting also?
Before beginning my Graduate Diploma, I thought I was quite computer literate. I can use Microsoft programs and all the features with confidence, trouble shoot basic technical issues and one of my greatest achievements, produce a good-looking power point presentation. I thought: “surely having these skills will allow me to use ICT effectively in the classroom…” How wrong I was! My ICT ‘world’ went quickly from Word, Excel and Power Point to programs such as Wordle, Prezi and virtual classrooms. Now it is being blown apart further with the uploading of my own YouTube videos AND the publishing of my own blog!!!! Knowing now the endless supply of interactive tools that are available to us as teachers, truly is mind-blowing! I went to school when it was still cool to have the latest gadget pens or the exercise books with the trendiest band or actor on the front of them. These days as a teacher, you’d be lucky if one student in your class even had a pen, let alone the ‘tired’ old piece of paper! As teachers of today’s students, we need to embrace this change and make a committment to jump on board the technology train alongside the kids. A quote from one of my readings resonates loudly: “A society which is mobile, which is full of channels for the distribution of a change occurring anywhere, must see to it that its members are educated to personal initiative and adaptability. Otherwise, they will be overwhelmed by the changes in which they are caught and whose significance or connections they do not perceive.” (Dewey, 1916, p68). Our ongoing ICT development is vital so we can provide challenging and engaging lessons that most importantly utilise the tools that have become so embedded in the everyday lives of our student.
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