Key Issues and Concepts
Unit 6 allowed for the opportunity to explore the value of the 3D virtual worlds in an academic setting. Up until this unit, I had only explored one tool called Wilo Star 3D. Essentially, Willow Star is a homeschooling program that caters to the students in grades six through 12. It boasts a fully accredited program and teachers and focuses on creativity and problem solving in an interactive online environment. Students are able to create and customize their own avatars applicable to the theme of whatever the content is they are studying at the time. Text and video are incorporated throughout the virtual experience in students can help build as well as respond to that environment. For example one themed virtual world takes place during the medieval time period and students can ‘become’ a participant in that time period through their avatar. Or, their space station themed program provides students with the opportunity to create and build a space station while solving problems along the way as an employee. Finally they offer a spelunking avatar with the not only explore through caves and learn about geology, they are encouraged to go out into their real world surroundings take pictures of caves to bring back into their avatar experience and share with their classmates.
My Experience in this Unit
For my Learning Challenge this unit I downloaded and installed Second Life to two different computers but it wouldn’t launch on either as it kept telling me there was an issue with the ‘Second Life Grid’. So, I turned to Sim-on-a-stick and it crashed my computer with a lovely blue screen. I decided then to go to www.thinkingworlds.com to view a demo and it worked! I watched ‘Vehicle Checkpoint Simulation’ where a soldier was tasked to secure a vehicle checkpoint. Questions during the simulation were embedded into the experience to allow the player to make real decisions with realistic effects. Checking for bombs, handling an armed driver were just a few of the scenarios demonstrated.
I then downloaded Thinking Worlds and began to play with the software through the lens of training I could do with my teachers and students. I created a journey scene and character and was on my way. You can create objects, additional characters and scenes too. It looks involved and could easily take hours to learn this program. Here is a screen shot of what the design part looks like in Thinking Worlds:
(picture taken by Andrew Raucci with permission)
Observations and Questions
I must say had very little experience with gaming and the virtual world and this amazed me with its potential. I could see how valuable this might be especially with students with special needs, who are gifted, or have ADD or Asperger’s syndrome. I also think this a virtual world could be leveraged teach students and role-play around the use of social media and other important ideas like bowling and respect. The experience feels like a blend of a learning management system (i.e blackboard) with 3-D gaming which produces a heightened sense of interaction and engagement.
(picture from http://www.creativecommons.org with permission)
I think this could be used with any student or class as a supplement to the more traditional reading and writing that might occur. But the real beauty of this is that the reading and writing is embedded into the actual avatar experience and with built-in functionality to allow the student to upload information and creates information to share with other classmates could really hit a lot of the common core state standards as well as the ISTE national technology standards. And with it being web-based and accessible anytime anywhere, you’ve created another way to reach students and might have normally fallen through the cracks.
Informative Gaming Blog: http://www.bluevolt.com/blog/gaming-elearning
Ted Talk ‘Gaming the Educational System’: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=auP-eq17U1g&feature=youtu.be
(n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.wilostar3d.com/