An Experienced Austrian Educator's View on the 3-D Skills Implemented to Design and Integrate an Alien Mystery in OpenSim

An Experienced Austrian Educator's View on the 3-D Skills Implemented to Design and Integrate an Alien Mystery in OpenSim

Stella K. Hadjistassou (KIOS Research Center for Intelligent Systems and Networks, Nicosia, Cyprus) and Judith Molka-Danielsen (Department of Logistics, Molde University College, Molde, Norway)
DOI: 10.4018/IJCALLT.2016100104


With their playful game-oriented nature, virtual learning environments can form constructive ecosocial settings for enacting game-driven collaborative tasks that have real pedagogical, learning, and teaching implications. Even though multiple studies have been undertaken in virtual learning environments, there is a dearth of studies on the constellation of complex interrelated skills and knowledge that second or foreign language educators integrate in actual situated contexts to design and offer task-oriented game-driven learning activities. Building on Compton's (2009) framework, this study investigates the complex set of technological, pedagogical, and evaluation skills that an expert Austrian educator, Franziska integrated to design a multifaceted game-oriented plot in the virtual village of Chatterdale in OpenSim in order to engage thirteen-year-old Austrian and Norwegian high school students in oral interactions during three slightly different task-oriented quests to solve an alien mystery. Data analysis of an interview, reflective comments on a wiki, and follow-up emails indicate that the design and integration of an epistemic game in praxis forms a collaborative endeavor involving the integration of a set of complex and multifaceted sets of skills and knowledge. The study investigates the skills that emerged during two stages, the planning, preparation, and student training stage and integration stage. The findings of this study can be used to broaden the pedagogical discussion on the skills and knowledge that second or foreign language teachers need to acquire and apply to design successful playful task-driven learning quests in virtual learning environments.
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Goal-driven learning experiences in virtual learning environments often need to challenge traditional epistemological beliefs on learning and teaching practices in institutional contexts and offer a new “epistemology of practice” (Shaffer, Squire, Halverson, & Gee, 2005) where learning, socialization practices, identity, and skills are constructed in new ecosocial learning contexts. Second language educators, researchers, ICT professionals, and other practitioners in the field need to be skillfully adept at leveraging the semiotic resources of virtual learning environments in order to construct game-driven learning experiences for language learners that have potential pedagogical, learning, and socialization implications (see Gee, 2003, 2007, Thorne, 2008; Barab, Gresalfi, & Arici, 2009; Reinhardt & Sykes, 2012; Zheng, Newgarden & Young, 2012; Godwin-Jones, 2014; Hadjistassou & Molka-Danielsen, 2016). As Shaffer, Squire, Halverson, and Gee (2005) postulate, “The epistemology of a practice thus organizes (and is organized by) the situated understandings, effective social practices, powerful identities, and shared values of the community. In communities of practice, knowledge, skills, identities, and values are shaped by a particular way of thinking into a coherent epistemic frame” (p.107).

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