Teaching in the Virtual Theatre Classroom

Teaching in the Virtual Theatre Classroom

Stephen A. Schrum (University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61692-822-3.ch011
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Theatre as a discipline has long been thought of as traditional, organic, and non-technological. In performance, at least one actor performs in a space inhabited by at least one spectator, and their interaction defines the theatrical event. In the teaching of theatre, students apprentice themselves to and are taught directly by masters in the field. However, in the 21st Century, the application of digital technology to the realms of theatrical performance and teaching has augmented the production of, and the methodology behind, the teaching of the theatrical art. Multi-User Virtual Environments (MUVEs), such as Second Life®, afford educators a rich interactive setting that both mirrors and enhances education and training in theatre, in the areas of ancient site reconstruction and student exploration of a virtual world. My teaching of a course titled Theatre Technology resulted in the development of some concepts regarding how a MUVE might be useful in theatre education.
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Teaching In Muves

The incorporation of digital technology into teaching has lead to a paradigm shift in the way some academics interact with students. Beginning with the assumption that students absorb and retain material better through active learning techniques, such as “physical activity or discussion” (Junglas, 2007, p. 90), we find that digital technology in general, and multi-user virtual environments in particular, can be utilized to promote active learning. Within virtual worlds, students are not passive observers or receivers of information, but rather interact with content, or may even create it themselves. Hence, virtual worlds, when used as a platform for teaching, place the student into an active learning environment.

Within the virtual world, the instructor may utilize a variety of active projects; as students move through the world, they interact with their environment, with objects, and with others. The others may be classmates or complete strangers they happen to encounter along the way. Such encounters, which allow for improvisational communication, can be as fruitful as the structured experiences an instructor has planned and created for the students.

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