Virtual educational environments do not replace the real world environments; however, they do offer something unique that is both engaging and exciting. Open Sim worlds like Second Life takes virtual education beyond the notion of gaming…. creativity, independent inquiry, and collaboration are all fostered. These high order thinking skills are at the heart of quality education, and if the tool works, I say use it!!
Northern Beaches Christian School is an inspiration when it comes to new learning environments, both physical and online, so its not surprising that they have a Second Life Island. The gallery, bookstore and radio-station allow students’ work to be “published” and shared. Students “fall in love” with the environment, are engaged immediately, and my second life experience backs that up…for all my negative ideas about people opting out of RL for SL I have to admit, I was excited and eager to explore as soon as started to realise the possibilities of that environment.
Distance education is made more connected and exciting by utilising 3D online learning spaces, with a sense of “presence”. When creating spaces it allows for maximum “ownership” which is something that every good educator knows is vital to deep learning. When initiating a virtual classroom, or learning experience Calogne states that it is desirable to skip the logical first class of orientation to software, as this is challenging and can be boring. Students need action and excitement to help them envision how they will use it effectively.
Students at Dulwich High expressed their belief that working together in a virtual world “evened” the playing field, putting them all on a similar level…and that it was conducive to trying new things, creating new forms, etc. as it was an all-new environment. Originally part of a Visual Arts and Design class, it ended up inspiring the students with respect for other subjects, such as math and science, that were once considered boring…Now that’s cross-curriculum to the max! “Education centers on discovery, and yet students often have a limited view of their of their role in the classroom. Shifting students from passive roles of castaways and survivors to the active roles of researchers and explorers requires a change in their perception of themselves and their willingness to participate” Calogne
The images on the right come from my exploration of Dulwich High’s virtual world, created by the students using an Open Sim. I think it’s so exciting, and the way the students talk about their experience is fantastic…they were so engaged, learned more than they needed, or thought they were going to, and ultimately, so proud of their work! Now that’s an educational achievement!!