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Virtual Reality in Education
|Author: J. Katherine Youngblood||Table of Contents|
Websites, blogs, wikis, email, podcasts, chat rooms, listservs, discussion boards, streaming video, web conferencing, etc. All of these are components of online learning environments used to facilitate interactivity and collaboration between educators and students (Littlefield, n.d.).
Another component of the online learning environment is the virtual environment. The virtual environment permits the learner to represent himself with an avatar and become immersed within a three dimensional (3D) community. Ostensibly these are social networks where increasingly large groups gather but anywhere one can recreate real world experiences can education be far behind? The answer is no. In fact, educators are already there, exploring, learning themselves and providing safe environments in which students may learn (Au, 2007; Kluge & Riley, 2008) .
Examples of Projects in Virtual Learning Environments
I have included Webkinz and Club Penguin because even though they are for younger children and are primarily comprised of games I believe they also hold value in teaching responsibility and economics. Whyville, Teen Second Life and There are targeted toward teenagers.
The best way to get started in a virtual community is to dive in. Log on, create an avatar and start exploring. Don't worry, for those of us who need guidance it can be found both "in world" and out, in blogs and wikis alike. Listed below are several helpful sites.
- Sim Teach
- Global Kids' Digital Media Initiative
- New Media Consortium Virtual Worlds
- Second Life and Education Blog
- Second Life Educators Working with Teens Wiki
- Second Life Education Wiki
- Second Life Grid
Implications for Teaching and Learning with Virtual Environments
So the question is this, is this just more cool technology or can it make a difference in educating students? Certainly integration of the technology into the student's learning experience is a potential benefit. As mentioned earlier, students working with lifelike representations can learn safely. Combustibles won't actually blow up when mixed and they can't get lost or left behind on a field trip to a virtual museum. Likewise, students can field trip to a glacier and see the effects of global warming without leaving their classroom. Students can also benefit from working in collaboration with people from many different cultures and backgrounds (Au, 2007; Weir, 2008).
The implications for teachers are a bit more real world. There is always cost to consider. Does the classroom have the hardware and software to make virtual learning beneficial? Additionally, with virtual environments there is a pretty steep learning curve, for students but especially for teachers. And finally, the challenge to keep students on task will be significant. After all who doesn't want to play around and socialize in a place where you get to fly (Kluge & Riley, 2008).
Overall, the benefits to teaching and learning in a virtual environment outway the challenges. In the 3D environment students are enthusiastic, think and work creatively, integrate technology, collaborate with others and immerse themselves in various learning experiences (Weir, 2008). This technology is not going to vanish and educators will serve their students best by using technology available today to prepare for tomorrow's world.
Advanced Education with Virtual Environments
- Educational Uses of Second Life
- Virtual Environments.info
- Virtual Worlds and 3D in online education
- Quest Atlantis
Au, W., J. (2007, February 1). The school of second life: Education online. Edutopia. Retrieved July 26, 2008 from http://www.edutopia.org/school-second-life
Kluge, S., & Riley, L. (2008). Teaching in virtual worlds: Opportunities and Challenges. Issues in Informing Science and Information Technology, 5, 127-135. Retrieved July 27, 2008 from http://18.104.22.168/search?q=
Littlefield, J. (n.d.). Multimedia learning in online classes. About.com: Distance Learning. Retrieved July 26, 2008 from http://distancelearn.about.com/od/studyskills/a/multimedia.htm
Weir, L. (2008, March 4).Get a life: Students collaborate in simulated roles. Edutopia. Retrieved July 26, 2008 from http://www.edutopia.org/second-life-virtual-reality-collaboration
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