Avatar Me! Designing Virtual Communities of Practice

Session Title: Avatar Me! Designing Virtual Communities of Practice

Session Details

Tuesday, March 12, 2013, CoSN 2013, San Diego, CA, 9:45AM-10:15AM – Room: Nautilus 4

Session Description

As students and teachers begin to interact within a virtual world, a unique opportunity unfolds for learning within a community of practice. Because users can create anything they can imagine, a virtual world is an excellent tool for creativity, collaboration, communication, and critical thinking.  Learn from the multiple perspectives of a school district, higher education, and an international expert on how virtual worlds are being used today.  Come learn about this open-source 3D environment where educators transport their students to far-off lands and places of the imagination, such as the Berlin Wall during the Cold War or a castle in the Medieval era.  Discover how this emerging technology facilitates student learning, agency, community, online safety, and digital age skills.

Session Outline

Introduction to Virtual World Learning

  • Definition: A virtual world is an online community that takes the form of a computer-based simulated environment through which users can interact with one another and use and create objects. (Wikipedia)
  • This session is an introduction to concept of learning communities within virtual worlds.

Perspectives of Virtual World Learning

Panel participants introduce themselves and briefly discuss their experiences in virtual worlds:

Benefits of  Virtual World Learning

  • Digital Age Skills – The 4C’s of Digital Age Learning in Virtual Worlds
    • Problem-solving for building/planning (critical thinking)
    • Designing and constructing the world (creativity)
    • Working with others to innovate (collaboration)
    • Discussing ideas, topics, and concerns (communication)
  • Rigor – Culmination of Digital Age Skills
    • Driving question to pull together the digital age skills
  • Agency – Explanation of how students “Own the Learning”
    • Closed/Shared and Open questions/topics/tasks
    • How do students establish ownership and territory?
  • Online Safety – Ethical issues of working within virtual worlds
    • Importance of protecting privacy
    • Ensuring age-appropriate content
    • Focusing on responsible use
  • Community – How community develops
    • Building of objects in virtual space
    • Negotiation of rights and responsibilities

Strategies for Virtual World Learning

  • Personalize It – Students design their avatars.
    • Customizing an avatar so that a student can develop voice
    • Becoming something different to fulfill a role or complete a task
    • Changing an avatar along with the changing needs of the student
  • Establish Norms – Establish guidelines for virtual world behaviors.
    • Explaining the non-negotiable expectations
    • Negotiating student opinions about appropriate use
    • Modifying norms through on-going practice
  • Differentiate – Expect that students will differentiate roles/responsibilities.
    • Encouraging the differentiation of roles (builders/socializers/gamers)
    • Utilizing the strengths of the different learning styles/behaviors.
  • Engaging Challenge and Purpose – Focus student engagement.
    • Providing time to learn the new tools in context of the challenge
    • Creating a sense of belonging
  • Build Together – Learn alongside the students.
    • Flattening the typical teacher/student roles
    • Doing what cannot be done in the real world – simulations/experiences
    • Participating as co-learners within the world.

Additional Resources

About the Presenters

Tim Clark, Ed.D.
Coordinator of Instructional Technology
Forsyth County Schools
Email: tclark@forsyth.k12.ga.us
Twitter: @byotnetwork

Jill Hobson
Director of Instructional Technology
Forsyth County Schools
Email:  jhobson@forsyth.k12.ga.us
Twitter: @hobsonjill

Bernajean Porter
Bernajean Porter Consulting
Email: bernajean@digitales.us
Twitter: @bernajeanporter


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