Learning & Teaching in SL

Learning Environment:  

  • An alternative and potentially neutral space away from the 'traditional' classroom, which can be socially
    inclusive for those learners which the formal establishment has woefully failed.
  • A greater range and diversity of learning space environments - from buildings - to a beach to a sauna! Let
    the learners develop their own learning environment?
  • Enables real time interactions and global alliances which are not constrained by traditional 'location'
    based environments.
  • For those with RL disabilities - it can be used to empower hard to reach learners and provide them with potentially, a hugely powerful, motivating and stimulating learning environment - free of RL constraints.
  • In 20 years time, we will laugh at what we now call a VLE [Blackboard, WebCT, Moodle etc etc] as
    being very quaint and 2D!

 Support Networks.  

  • Formal and informal, multiple support networks - from peer to peer through to trusted intermediaries - through to synchronous and asynchronous communication channels.
  • Collaborative space for virtual interactions. One of SL's huge benefits is the collaboration - both for learners and educational practitioners in a wide range and diversity of spaces.

 Learning & Teaching Dynamic  

  • Enable all learners to experience a greater variety of teaching and learning styles - fab for kinaesthetic and audio visual styles!
  • Different opportunity for greater range of interactions with the teacher
  • The traditional role of the teacher and the learner can become blurred, which potentially puts the learner
    more in control of their own learning [andragogic /heutagogic approaches].
  • Relationships and identity development and creation can be personalised through avatars etc.

 Assessment  

  • Alternative environment to support formative and summative assessment - from RARPA [recognising
    and recording progress and achievement in non accredited learning -
    http://www.aclearn.net/display.cfm?page=1290] through to
    virtual portfolios
  • Fabulous opportunity to showcase work in an interactive 3D environment rather than a 2D website, or through paper portfolios
  • Help learners to become more actively involved in designing and carrying out their own assessments.


 Personalised Content  

  • Enables a 3D environment for curriculum areas from marketing and PR to fashion and design, languages to
    retail.
  • Allows another technology solution to be deployed [working on the premise that the technology should
    support the learning and teaching and not the other way around!] It is also 'just another tool' that a teacher [or learner] can deploy as part of any learning episode.

 Flexible Curriculum  

  • Enable the curriculum to be more bite sized and delivered anytime - anyplace - rather than the institutional and non flexible 9-5 Monday to Friday.
  • Can link home/school - home / college
  • Help to provide flexible and non linear learning pathways
  • Enable learners to co-design, manage and access the curriculum in different ways

 Downsides: 

Responsive Infrastructure  

  • Technical specifications for running SL are still very high for many users to effectively use SL to support learning and teaching. Therefore, there is a risk of supporting the 'digital divide' - those that have - and those that have not.
  • E-safety - for many organisations e-safey is a real issue - from firewalls to learner safety.
  • Connectivity - not all places have a decent broadband connection
  • Download rights for Second Life software updates.
  • Download rights for ensuring Quicktime is updated

 Evidence and Evaluation  

  • We would very much doubt there is much robust [robust = key word] evidence yet that virtual worlds DO support learner retention, achievement or attainment. However, I also have no doubt that it is only a matter of time before that starts to filter through. The fact that the community is now over 6.2 million worldwide and at any one time over 20k are in-world suggests that something is good - and it isn't just sex!

 Inspection 

  • Certainly the UK, Educational inspectors through OfSTED just couldn't cope with Second Life. Therefore, there will continue being a struggle using this technology – as with any other web 2.0 technology as inspection is a major driver [along with funding]

 V-Safety 

  • Teen grid requires adults to be CRB checked and there is a cost implication. Different countries have different requirements? Can we be assured?
  • Issues related to learners with social or behavioural difficulties - disrupting?
  • Un-mediated access by teens to adult grid?
  • Managing personal information issues related to: bullying, harassment, racism, homophobia,

 Skills 

  • Skills and competences are quite high - these include technical, safety, learning and pedagogical required by both teacher and learner. 

  Issues

  • Consideration on how we manage our communication skills in SL