The Tree of Knowledge Project: Organic Designs as Virtual Learning Spaces

The Tree of Knowledge Project: Organic Designs as Virtual Learning Spaces

Dean A. F. Gui (English Language Centre, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hung Hom, Hong Kong, China) and Gigi AuYeung (English Language Centre, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hung Hom, Hong Kong, China)
DOI: 10.4018/jvple.2013040105
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Abstract

The virtual Department of English at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, also known as the Tree of Knowledge, is a project premised upon using ecology and organic forms to promote language learning in Second Life (SL). Inspired by Salmon’s (2010) Tree of Learning concept this study examines how an interactive ecological environment – in this case, a tree – might offer numerous learning possibilities via every segment of the structure. Third-party billboard and sculpt modeling techniques, SL building tools and mega prim applications (which are more effective for organic shapes) were used to develop a three dimensional textured trunk, two-faced layered leaves and size-locked branches, crown, and roots. Preliminary student survey responses to the various elements of the virtual department architecture included an appreciation for creativity, innovation, and attractiveness in the design; challenges included a sense of dizziness when maneuvering around, difficulty in controlling the avatar, slow computer system responses, and lack of instruction in how to navigate through the structure.

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