Virtual World Technology

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Spark:
Using virtual worlds as part of your instructional design can open up possibilities for flexible learning and shift the dynamics between student and teacher and student and resources. Groups of students who are studying at a distance (such as all of you in MNG00085) are able to come together in the one space and have a sense of presence through their avatar. Flexibility, however, can take many forms and is not always desired by the learner. I invite you to read a text about flexible learning, a case study example of virtual worlds.  By so doing you will be able to apply some theories to the motivation for providing flexible learning and using virtual worlds in your context.

On your blog answer the following questions:

  1. Reflect on a number of learning experiences that you have been involved in and the degree of flexibility which each involved. How did this influence the effectiveness of the learning context?
  2. In what ways could you use virtual worlds in your instructional context? Click here for an example

Early in 2011 I was given the opportunity to complete an university assignment using Second Life as Southern Cross University has a virtual presence there. It was extremely challenging and to be truthful many times I felt like quitting. I remember when I would go into the world and try and learn about the tools and then my tutor, Lisa, would suddenly appear and I would feel embarrassed as generally it was when I was trying to do something that had gone wrong. I think having the ‘physical’ presence of an avatar made it worse because she could ‘see’ me.  Either way, I persevered and as a result I now use virtual worlds for many learning projects with my primary students.

What then transpired was that many of my unit assessments were modified to include a virtual world component and therefore I was provided with an opportunity to develop deeper learning and success with unit outcomes. Maths, English, Science & Technology, Learning Technologies, HSIE and Pedagogical units have all have been linked to the use of virtual worlds within my pedagogy. I am not sure what direction my studies would have gone and what particular skills I would be leaving my degree with had I not been provided with the opportunity to use and develop skills and understanding  with this technology but am sure I wouldn’t have achieved the self confidence I now have. Having this flexibility certainly helped me connect with core understandings of each unit as I was so meaningfully engaged.

Flexible learning is described by  Collis and Moonen (2001) as learning that offers choice to the learner but still achieves stated outcomes. In some ways I would call this differentiation as choice allows the student to identify the component that will interest them and ultimately enable the best opportunity for success. When I read Table I. The lessons learned I readily identified with: Lesson 5. Watch the 4-Es: 

 An individual’s likelihood of voluntarily making use of a  particular type of technology for a learning-related purpose is a function
of four ‘E’s: the environmental context, the individual’s perception of educational effectiveness and of ease of use, and the individual’s sense of personal engagement with the technology. The environmental context and the level of personal engagement are most important (p. 219)

Even though in many cases having a virtual world component created more work for me my personal engagement with the technology and seeing the bigger picture and how I could really use this authentically in the classroom negated the extra effort required.

Reference:

Collis, B., & Moonen, J. (2001). Flexible learning: It’s not about the distance. Flexible learning in a digital world: Experiences and expectations (pp. 8-28). London: Kogan Page.

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