At first, I was skeptical of VWE and the power behind it to actually teach students. Part of it seemed “too easy” and that students who participated in this type of educational experience would be taking the easy way out. I also thought that for older students, VWE may be too hard to grasp and navigate. I know that I had never used Second Life before, but my generation, unlike my parents, is very accepting of new technologies and eager to learn about them and use them. Within the first two class-periods, I had a good grasp of Second Life and how to navigate around the virtual environment with little instruction. Although I was skeptical at first, I was very excited to learn about VWE and the implications for the future. With VWE, quality and engaging education can be available to all students regardless of where they may live.
I had never done anything with Second Life before, so at first, I did struggle a little bit. It was a little overwhelming navigating through the virtual environment as well as having to learn how to use the elements of the Game Kit properly. By the second class period, though, I had gotten more of a hang of using the environment, and I also realized that I didn’t have to create all of our tokens by hand, which was a tremendous relief! I thoroughly enjoyed searching through the Second Life store and finding items to use as tokens and traps.
Creating the content was easy for me. With my background in education, and my experience in COMM 600, I found it simple to seek out the pertinent information and then create criterion-referenced test items. Our group focused our lesson on notorious places in privateer/pirate history. Each member did a little research of their own and then chose a place to focus their individual questions and content. We then divided our content and chronologically organized the layout of the information of the ship. Jen and I were first chronologically so we put our tokens and traps on the top of the ship and then Tahini and Kelia, who were second chronologically, put theirs on the bottom part of the ship. We felt that for the learner, this would be the easiest way to navigate through the information without getting confused. This separation falls into the idea of “chunking” information so that the learner does not get frustrated and/or confused, while still keeping the information challenging enough to be interesting.
At the end, as we were creating quizzes and tying up loose ends, we also created a welcome board on the top of the ship to help the learner understand how to navigate the ship. An important part in education is making sure that the learners have clear concise directions. This helps to avoid confusion as well as build the confidence of the learners. If the learners know what they should be doing, then navigating the VWE is less overwhelming and they can concentrate on the information.
At first, the biggest issue I had was a total unfamiliarity with Second Life, but that was quickly resolved with a little practice. I also found it hard to use the Game Kit at first, but by the end it was much easier. Working in a large group was also difficult as it was a challenge to coordinate each individual’s work efforts. I learned from this experience that if we were not working in class, it was best to go into Second Life and make sure that everyone could speak using the microphones. It made it much easier to get done versus using the “chat box” feature. I also learned that a little more planning ahead of time, making it clear what everyone was responsible for, would have helped with some confusion as we wrapped the project up. Other than that, things went very smoothly and I learned a lot from this experience.
Virtual World Education is an exciting setting for learning. It is engaging and informative, which are two necessary components for tomorrow’s learners. Although I had never used Second Life before, it was a great medium for VWE because it is free to download, so any learner with a computer can have the software. Creating the VWE within Second Life was a little challenging, but once I got the hang of it, it was a very enjoyable experience. I was relieved to have worked with a group, as doing all of the work would have been a very large responsibility for one person. In the future, when working with a group on this type of assignment, taking a little more time to plan and set an individual schedule for everyone will make the whole process run much smoother. I really enjoyed the assignment and learned a lot from the experience. I hope to use a VWE in my classroom someday and that it engages and benefits the students.