Learning by Doing in 3D Environments: Collaborative Efforts in Second Life and Open Sim

Learning by Doing in 3D Environments: Collaborative Efforts in Second Life and Open Sim

Barbara McQueen, Anabel Nowak, Jens Kjaer Olsen
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2426-7.ch017
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Learning by doing using 3D worlds is a relatively new approach for teachers and students. To date, a limited number of teachers have had the time or money to take university courses on this or otherwise develop in-world teaching that fully takes advantage of the unique opportunities virtual worlds offer. In this chapter, the authors will review the various virtual worlds teachers have been collaborating on to teach different subjects to different people in different languages. The authors will also detail the twists and turns they've encountered in their own attempts to teach together in-world. Finally, the authors will look at new developments on the horizon and how they might impact what is already happening.
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The theories and approaches related to teaching languages have gone through centuries of evolution, and each stop along the way has had some merits and drawbacks. In general, there has been a see-sawing back and forth along a continuum where one end represents very rigid, teacher-controlled lessons, and the other end represents more open-ended, student-driven lessons. Virtual world teaching can fall anywhere along that continuum depending on the people orchestrating it.

The authors of this chapter firmly believe that the best use of virtual worlds is found on the student-driven end of the continuum, but there are merits to pulling from all the approaches, and the authors have observed almost all of the approaches being used in current virtual world language teaching. Using a brief overview of the history of language teaching as a framework, this section of the chapter will analyze what has been happening in virtual worlds.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Affective Computing: When computers have been programmed to recognize, interpret, and simulate human emotions.

Deep Learning: Learning by problem solving, especially complex problems, as opposed to surface learning or rote learning.

Bots/NPCs: In-world robots, also known as non-playing characters, that simulate conversation and activity by being programmed to respond to simple questions or move in certain ways or along certain paths when activated.

Gamification: Using games in lessons to make classes more entertaining, natural, and immersive.

Experiential Learning: Students learning by creating and doing; hands-on learning that is often more relevant to students and more memorable.

Rez: To get an object out of your in-world inventory and use it the virtual.

CLIL: Content and Language Integrated Learning; teaching subjects such as science, history, and geography to students through a foreign language; provides exposure to the language without requiring extra curriculum, and is often successful with learners who have not responded well to other types of formal language instruction.

Holodeck: A virtual room made of holograms or previously created scenes that do not use land and memory resources until quickly rezzed for a specific purpose.

Authentic Learning: Working on real world problems to develop the skills that will be demanded by universities and the workplace.

Flipped Classroom: Rather than the teacher using class time to dispense information, that work is done by each student outside of class and may take the form of watching video lectures, listening to podcasts, perusing books and collaborating with.

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