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Teachers Without Borders

Educational Frontiers: Learning in a Virtual World (EDUCAUSE Review) | EDUCAUSE CONNECT - 1 views

  • I continue the orientation with highlights of accomplishments from teenage students at Ramapo, Suffern (N.Y.) Middle School’s campus in Second Life, hosted by Peggy Sheehy ( Their learning experiences are inspiring and help my students visualize projects modeled in a virtual world. During one session, a student reflected: “If teens can do it, I can do it.” Student ownership grows as students visualize the class workspace as a place where they meet, attend class sessions, work on projects, play, and relax with friends.
    • Teachers Without Borders
      Yes, I understand that university students can be inspired by the work of middle schoolers, but let's look at some examples of what university students have done in SL.
  • Virtual world learning experiences are fun
    • Teachers Without Borders
      So are fieldtrips.
  • A few may feel disengaged and go into “cruise control,” expecting the instructor to entertain them. Shifting students from the passive roles of survivors and castaways to the active roles of researchers and explorers requires a change in their perception of themselves and their willingness to participate.
    • Teachers Without Borders
      Very good point. Not sure yet why SL is the best way to do this ...
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  • Class can be held on the beach, in another country, in outer space, or in any simulated setting. Students do not need to be confined to a traditional class setting, with chairs facing forward, but can instead move within the learning environment, communicate via text or voice, offer information or ask questions whenever they like (without being impolite), and correspond with classmates and friends via private messaging.
  • learning stations can be designed that offer content to students who miss class or who need more time to study and reflect. Students can touch these 3D objects to get notecards, listen to podcasts, or see streaming video that covers this course content. Although this capability is also available in online course management systems and websites, the shared nature of an avatar interacting with an object, being part of the content that is being studied, and seeing 3D simulations of the content come to life is powerful. Since a student’s understanding of complex content may be hazy, offering information in a variety of ways allows students to use the information to solve problems and create solutions for their projects.
    • Teachers Without Borders
      There's got to be more to this. Still noyt sure why I need a virtual world for this. I need to download the client, open an account, create an avatar, just to click a box?

      I'd like to see a SL example of how "powerful" this can be. I'd like to hear from the students.
  • Class participants are often not anonymous, despite the use of virtual world aliases for avatar names. One reason is that students want information, education, feedback, and grades from their instructor, and they want to know who is responding to them. In addition, students share a sense of community in these environments, and they mentor one another as they discover how to use the tool to complete their individual and team course activities. This sense of identity differs from the social use of virtual worlds for entertainment purposes, where anonymity is often favored.
  • Students shift from being passive listeners to engaging in group interaction and activities and demonstrating that they understand the course content via the completion of projects, papers, labs, and case studies. Many classes that include case studies use role-play, putting learners in roles and contexts in which they explore the content and make decisions based on the forces and constraints placed on them.
    • Teachers Without Borders
      That shift can happen without 3D environments.
  • In addition to learning user-interface design and testing principles, the class goal was to reflect on new ways to design and evaluate user interfaces. With this goal in mind, the students elected to study problems related to accessibility, perception, and interaction. Instead of focusing solely on the software interfaces, they created 3D linked objects with behaviors that simulated real-world systems.

    In their “lessons learned” papers, the students noted that the virtual world classes enhanced their learning experience and their perceptions of self and gave them new skills to demonstrate their mastery of the course content. The sense of presence and the customization of their avatars were high on their list of priorities for learning and participating in virtual world classes. In contrast, they noted that it took time for them to customize their avatars and to learn to communicate, gesture, and emote. They also learned to create 3D objects and to texture, link, and program the objects into testable, scripted projects that responded when touched.

    • Teachers Without Borders
      Excellent example. Would be interesting to hear from the students, though.
  • In virtual worlds, we can leverage a mix of content and activity to support all learners: auditory, visual, and kinesthetic.
    • Teachers Without Borders
      We can also do it in a Kenyan classroom, for example, where there are only desks and a blackboard. A good teacher can accomplish this anywhere.
Teachers Without Borders

Virtual Worlds? "Outlook Good" (EDUCAUSE Review) | EDUCAUSE CONNECT - 0 views

  • bring the words “3D virtual environment” a bit closer to the mainstream. In June 2007, Second Life had nearly eight million residents. One year later, it had more than fourteen million.2

    But Second Life is not the only virtual world—and not the only one involved in education. The Active Worlds program Active Worlds Educational Universe (AWEDU) includes over eighty educational worlds ( Educators are also working (individually) in There. Other virtual worlds efforts include Central Grid, Kaneva, Twinity, CyberNet Worlds, The Palace, Furcadia, and Project DarkStar. Others spring up daily, it seems. Over time, we may see a shift toward open source opportunities like Croquet and toward work-oriented virtual collaboration spaces like Sun Technology’s Project Wonderland.

    In addition, many virtual worlds are tied to product lines: Webkinz, Home (Sony), BarbieGirls (Mattel), and Club Penguin (Disney). Add the many additional efforts that Disney is putting forward in this field, along with other younger-market companies like MTV, and it is crystal-clear that virtual worlds are here to stay. If the number of virtual worlds is not an indication, certainly the amount of money being invested should be. According to Virtual Worlds Management, over $1 billion (U.S.) was invested in virtual companies in 2007 (, and over $184 million was invested in the first quarter of 2008 (

  • the New Media Consortium estimates that more than 1,200 educational islands were created in 2007.4
  • In July 2008, IBM and Linden Lab announced an interoperability agreement following successful tests in which avatars were teleported “from the Second Life Preview Grid into a virtual world running on an OpenSim server, marking the first time an avatar has moved from one virtual world to another.”8
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  • Other efforts are starting to move to the forefront and should certainly be watched in the coming months. Many, especially those working on an open source platform, would like to see standards that tie other platforms together. Efforts such as the Immersive Education Initiative (, by the Media Grid (, are looking to bring standards to, and develop best practices for, the mildly wild frontier that is currently virtual worlds.
  • Another perceptual challenge for virtual worlds is the idea that they are all games.
  • In addition, users of Second Life, Active Worlds, and There have something that players of the highly polished, graphics-heavy, multi-user role-playing games like World of Warcraft and Lord of the Rings do not have: the ability to create, change, and control the environment.
  • Most of those educators using virtual worlds today realize that it is a means to an end, a tool available for teaching and learning. However, this particular tool has shown the same growth pattern and potential as the Internet. Just as once many in higher education loudly proclaimed that the Internet was of no practical use and was filled with questionable material and marketing, so too do critics today have their doubts about virtual worlds. But the web grew into a vital part of our lives, and a growing number of people believe that virtual worlds will do so the same.
Jean Shankle

eSchoolNews - 0 views

  • Still, Trevena cautioned that teachers, administrators, and technology staff must work together and be prepared to support a Second Life program.  Identifying sustainable funding sources, upgrading computers and investing in hardware, and having a backup plan if the Second Life platform is down are all necessary.
    • Teachers Without Borders
      This is a serious obstacle for schools/classrooms where students cannot al be online at the same time or where the hardware does not support SL.
  • A 2006 NCES and University of Michigan study found that by age 21, the average youth has watched 20,000 hours of television and played 10,000 hours of video games, said Ntiedo Etuk, the CEO Tabula Digita, which offers games centered on pre-algebra and algebra. 
  • "The reason that [gaming] is successful is obviously that it's relevant to students--it allows for the notion of competition, which gets students going, there's an opportunity for socialization, and there is instant feedback on what they're doing right or wrong," Etuk said.

    Video games also foster collaboration, because instead of a teacher standing in front of a classroom, students begin to help one another and become teachers themselves, he added.

    • Teachers Without Borders
      The notion of teacher presence is very important here. Should the teacher participate in the virtual worlds/play games along with the students?
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  • Teachers can set difficulty levels and receive reports on student data, including the last time a student played their game, what their score was, right and wrong answers, and the topics they covered.
    • Teachers Without Borders
      But isn't that just another form of teacher-endorsed curriculum? Is there really a difference between this game and the textbook, once the initial surge of excitement wears off?
  • "We found that students in our project have improved their self-efficacy in science,"
  • Video games engage students and help foster some of the 21st-century skills, such as problem-solving, which may be more difficult to acquire in a traditional classroom with a textbook.
  • "When you think about the skills that students need when they leave school, like creativity and curiosity...identifying problems and solving them--these are skills that [can be] hard to teach in the traditional face-to-face classroom," Clarke said.  "And a lot of these technologies are being used in the corporate world--IBM is now using games to train its employees, so you see simulations and games emerging outside of K-12 education."
    Gaming helps students hone 21st-century skills
    Environments such as Second Life can both stimulate and educate, experts say
    By Laura Devaney, Senior Editor, eSchool News
    maybe mentions Skoolaborate
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