OLTD 509 Week #5

I really enjoyed getting a tour through some of the student’s worlds that Greg facilitated, especially the Ancient Egypt creations.  As was said during his seminar, our students will often be the ones teaching us in these environments.  With just a bit of structure and direction it is amazing to think about what some students are able to build.  I could relate to Greg’s mention of a student who was not motivated in class, and given a bad grade, who then turned around and built a whole virtual classroom.  I have students like that in my class who just need a little spark, and a series of challenges in a novel environment to get them going.

I think that the freedom to create and play in one’s environment is exciting to many students.  The ability to “master” the rules of a virtual world must be appealing, especially when there are many aspects of the real world that are out of our students control at their present ages.  With no limits beyond the technical skills to realize what they imagine, virtual world presents opportunities to build and make mistakes that need not carry over into their everyday lives.

I think that it is tricky to say exactly what students are going to take away from learning within virtual worlds, and this is going to ultimately be decided by how much these virtual worlds begin to interact with our traditional world in the future.   I can see being able to play and create in these worlds being very helpful in developing critical thinking and problem solving methods, and a great way to get quick results when learning new skills.  I can also see it being very frustrating for students who get used to that level of freedom and flexibility that a virtual world may provide, when contrasted with the real world.

I think that as with all emerging technologies, there will be students that are drawn to these tools, and those that do not see the appeal.  I think the potential is there to enrich learning opportunities, and provide a level of freedom and control that many students will welcome.  I can also see many students who would view this as more of a gimmick, and not get too drawn in to what these worlds offer.  I myself am still on the fence to a certain extent.  If these worlds become more commonplace it is important that we are somewhat literate in their uses and potential misuses.  Much like social media, if our students are going to be engaging in them regardless, then we owe it to them to teach them how to participate in these worlds effectively and safely.

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2 responses to “OLTD 509 Week #5”

  1. Jane C says :

    Hi Ben,
    Thanks for your post. I so agree that we need to be careful in the use of any technology we use with our students. We have to focus on the purpose of the activities and venues in which we are asking our students participate. I do feel, however, that even though students are able to have “flexibility” and “freedom” in these Worlds, they can also have these things in a traditional classroom setting, especially when they are working on a project base learning activity, where there is freedom to explore and the flexibility of how they achieve their end product. Virtual Worlds is just another way to express creativity, have engagement, and think critically. I don’t think it is the end all be all for all students. If Virtual Worlds can help facilitate students to internalize learning, then I say, try it. If nothing else maybe Virtual Worlds will help some students who are not engaged in a traditional setting, be engaged through this type of venue.
    Thanks again, Ben,
    Jane C

  2. Laura says :

    Hi Ben,
    It is interesting getting glimpses into seminars in which I wasn’t able to participate. Being a “non-gamer” and someone who has barely ever played video games or ever ventured into virtual worlds/reality, I have a hard time wrapping my head around this idea and am hesitant to venture into these worlds. And so I lurk…and even so, with reluctance and uncertainty.
    I found it interesting to read your blog post and try to understand how virtual worlds can support student learning. You mention that “the freedom to create and play in one’s environment is exciting to many students”. As a K-2 teacher, I’m wondering if this is similar to play experiences using Lego or dress-up clothes where it is into the imagination the students escape where the “toys” are the vehicles to alternate worlds. I’m also intrigued by your comment about the students’ ability and attraction to “master the rules of a virtual world…especially when many aspects of the real world are out of [their] control at the moment”. I can see this appeal, especially for teenagers who are, by nature, learning about and experimenting with power, control and agency.
    You explore this question in your blog post and it is one in which I am also interested: “How do virtual worlds support students to effectively navigate and contribute to their real world?”
    How can teachers, parents and role models support healthy engagement in these virtual worlds?
    And for all the parents and educators who feel disconnected to virtual reality, how do we best enter into a conversation about virtual reality with our students and children who may already be fully immersed into these worlds?
    Thank you for the big questions you raised in your blog post 🙂
    Laura

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