Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Virtual World Virtual School

I really should narrow the scope of my virtual school research. But, I just couldn't resist posting the Virtual Classroom Project on jokaydia.com . Jokaydia is an island in Second Life. The Virtual Classroom Project goal is to "provide a platform for educators to experiment with designing spaces for learning".

I have some definite opinions about Second Life. I'm not sure it's quite ready for prime time, much less K12 virtual school. This comes from my personal inability to navigate without looking aimless and impaired (I run into things and people.) I've tried to visit a number of educational sites within Second Life, but I have yet to get much out of them. So why am I intrigued? Why do I pop in from time to time? Truth is, I wonder if virtual worlds are the future of virtual school. To some extent, I believe that the virtual brick and mortar buildings, avatars, and conversations provide a feeling of being there that doesn't come from discussion boards, blogs, and other virtual school assignments.

Collaboration is all the buzz within the virtual school I am observing. (More on that in a future post.) They are having a hard time getting students to collaborate. My experience in online courses indicates that online collaboration must be facilitated. Students don't do it unless it's required. (e.g. Post your response and respond to at least 2 classmates.) In Second Life, collaboration just happens. Frankly, it's difficult NOT to communicate when you virtually bump into someone. Once the conversation is started, other connections are made.

Check out this example of a Harvard Law course in Second Life. Is this the future of virtual school? Is this the future of teaching?

Kemp, Jeremy, and Daniel Livingstone. "PUTTING A SECOND LIFE “METAVERSE” SKIN ON LEARNING MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS." Google. Retrieved 1 Apr. 2008


Mark said...

Interesting point about bumping into someone and it being difficult to not communicate.

I just tried Second Life for the first time on Monday in my technology in foreign language education class. We all logged on together (in the F2F classroom on campus) and it was actually quite amusing. The first person I tried to talk to actually removed her clothes and I couldn't figure out why. I'm told there are virtual prostitutes and strippers wandering around all over the place in Second Life. The Cervantes Institute has a presence there, but I haven't checked it out yet. I know there are people that take languages classes in Second Life, which is real mystery to me.

My classmates are not very optimistic about using Second Life and other virtual worlds in language learning. I think maybe we see the potential, but are more interested in tools that we can use with ease in our classrooms now. I definitely think there is great potential there. I honestly need to take time to explore this topic more.

JeanneW said...

The only place I ever experienced Second Life was when I saw it featured on a TV crime drama. I had no idea it is used as a technology teaching tool. Although the virtual strippers and prostitutes Mark mentioned may be a little problem in the K-12 environment, the technology is spellbinding. I also see great potential for making virtual school even more engaging....once they get the bugs out ; )

J-Lang said...

I too am curious about virtual environments and their potential role in the future of education. I have had some experience with Second Life in a previous course, but haven't had the time to explore this virtual world much. There is also Teen Second Life for those 13-18, but I doubt many of those users want schooling to interfere with their experience.
I don't know if Second Life is ready to be a delivery method for education on a large scale, however, imagine if a school had access to a program like this that allowed students and teachers to have a private learning space complete with avatars and a virtual brick and mortar environment, much in the same way the virtual school class is done now. That's an interesting prospect to me.


Theodore said...

Anyone interested in this topic will need to read the current issue (July) of Miller McCune which talk about the Army's research and development of immersive virtual worlds (iVW) The Army is using the technology to train personal in cultural negotiations. They are also using simulations to treat post traumatic stress disorder with a 75% effectiveness rate. Needless to say their versions of iVW are much improved. The article goes on to say that college freshman year courses will be taught with the aid of iVWs. But it would seem to me that we need to start using these innovative ideas in high schools where kids have the gaming skills and are dropping out.

Farica Litwin said...

A virtual world for a virtual school? That sounds a lot more interactive than just the basic chat conference window, or maybe the classic IRC setup. Thanks to Theodore for sharing something about the Army's research about immerse Virtual Worlds.