Okay, I must tell the truth. I am a bit tired of people who think that reality is limited to things made of atoms, that pixel-based virtual world is simply unreal, that virtual world teaching does not have a real impact in life and that everything based on atoms are always better for learning than the ones based on pixels .
As a teacher who use both atomic-based and pixel-based worlds for teaching I know that both worlds are REAL, that virtual world learning impacts the students up to their atomic level, and that in certain case pixel based learning is better for students than the atomic based one.
How do I make such conclusion? Here's an example. Several weeks ago, students were learning about atom. They had to reach these standards:
1. Describe the structure of atoms, including the location of protons, neutrons, and electrons. 2. Determine the number of protons, neutrons, and electrons, and the mass of an element using the periodic table.
After giving them an overview, I assigned my students to make a model of an atom of a particular element. I split the students into two groups (each group consisted of students with various cognitive abilities). I assigned the first group to draw the model of an atom on a paper, replicating the atom structure picture in their book. I asked the second group to do the same in virtual world Second Life with the help of their book and Google.
My discoveries were surprising.
The students who learned in atomic-based world using paper and color pencil:
- reached the standards in 45 minutes (with additional time to redo their work at home)
- drew a 2D picture of the atom structure
- found difficulties in drawing the electron configuration (They thought that the electrons scatered randomly)
- couldn't imagine how the electrons move along the circular orbit
- didn't make the picture accurately in the first attemp (all students) and after correction they had to redo the drawing. - felt that they had to do it and often said "it's hard to draw this" during the activity
The students who learned in pixel-based world using virtual world Second Life:
- reached the standards in 45 minutes
- made a 3D model of the atom structure
- could configure the electrons in their orbits visible in 360 degree vision
- could imagine how the electrons move along the circular orbit because they scripted the electrons
- some students who didn't make the model accurately could easily edit their works without redoing it all over.
- were excited and asked critical questions during the activity
Apparently, in this case the students who learned in pixel-based world using virtual world Second Life could reach the standards faster and easier. They were also excited and curious. Now how can someone say that pixel-based world is not real? If the kids' 3D atom models in virtual world are not real then their 2D atom drawings on paper are not real either because if they want to see the REAL structure of an atom, they need a scanning tunneling microscope or a angstrom microscope. But in REALity, we don't have those microscopes at our school and neither do most schools in the world.
So, what does "REAL" mean to you? What is your REALity?
I have been having these questions before. How come something so virtual affect people in their physical life? If ideas can be spread throughout the metaverse reaching every corner of the world, can love be transfered the same way?
The answer to both of my questions is YES. When Mt. Merapi in Central Java erupted, my group, SLED Indonesia (a group of Indoesian educators in Second Life), decided to do something in Second Life to help the victims. We did several fundraising activities, from photo exhibition, lecture and folk theater 'The Legend of Mt.Merapi' to roundtable session and concert (thanks to Green and Angyl). We raised around LS$ 175.000 in all events from avatars around the world. The concert organized by Green and Angyl and their fellow musicians alone generated up to L$ 128.000. We could never thank them enough for all of their magnificently selfless work.
Those lindens finally reached the victims of Mt.Merapi eruption in Samiran village, Boyolali, Central Java through our network. (Thanks to Wieda and the crew, a dear friend whom I never meet in physical life but bond in virtual world) We used the money mostly to buy supplies for the farmers so that they could start farming again and make a living for their families.
Isn't it amazing what pixels and electromagnetic wave can do to human life? Isn't it fascinating that people who never have any physical connections whatsoever can connect physically through virtual world? Isn't it incredible that love can be transfered from people around the world, breaking geographic, racial, religious boundaries and other barriers?
What will you transfer?
Special thanks to August Chrome from Pontificia Universidad Catolica Del Peru, Zeppo Romano from Illonois State Univeristy-US and Aedann Slade from North Carolina Web-Based Immersive Environment for Education-US
Special thanks to Angly and Green, the most amazing, kind hearted and incredibly patient artist and musicians. (Now you can chop my head if you want, Greeen. lol Angyl won't do it I know. She is an angel)
Special thanks to all Indonesian educators (home and school) in SL who have contributed their time, resources and thoughts to make this happen. You guys are AWESOME!
I always think that people who spend real money to buy virtual goods are insane. But these days I found myself spending some linden dollars (virtual money that I buy with real money) to shop. Please don't give me the look, I am not a freak. I can be almost anything in SL for FREE but sometimes I just want to be myself and look like myself (or prettier than myself lol) and that's not free at all.
I once was an outsider in SL economics, and even a skeptic but now am an active participant in this virtual goods buying and selling. Here are my justification:
1. I mostly buy educational tools .....okay okay and apparels to make my avatar look good (LOL).
2. It is a great way to teach my students about virtual economics
3. I don't buy strange stuffs like virtual six packs or virtual baby.
My dear friend in Massive Online Open Course PLENK 2010 shared me this video link several times ago. I have been a fan of Global Kids and I was happy to get this video link. I can´t wait to bring my students to collaborate there.
We are having fun learning in SL alright but please...stop thinking that we are just cartoons.
If you are an educator and a newbie, here are some tips in using SL for your teaching:
1. Learn to move yourself first before starting any classes. It will prevent you from bumping into objects, being stuck in an unknown place or even drowning.
2. Always wear underpants no matter what. You may think that it is just a virtual world, nothing ugly will happen, right? Try to fly wearing a skirt with no underpants. You will know what I mean.
3. Find a private place or a changing room to change your outfit. Trust me, it's a horrible idea to be naked in front of other avis, let alone your own students.
4. Choose a decent AO to wear. You might want to improve yourself with Animation Override but wearing lap dancer AO while teaching will bring you lots of troubles both in SL and RL.
5. Activate your headset. It is easier to control a bunch of avatars using voice than text. But don't let your students use voice chat unless it is necessary to do so. (I got this invaluable tip from my mentor)
6. Relate what you teach in SL with what you teach in RL. It will give the students a better understanding of what they are learning.
7. Write notecards to support your teaching. Some sims are graphically amazing but lack of educational information.
8. Learn to build. Sometimes you need to cutomize your teaching in SL but you cannot get the objects you need. Why not built them yourself?
9. Learn to operate press-o-matic and slide presentation screen. These gadgets will improve your teaching termendously.
10. Join educators group in SL to share knowledge and ideas, learn from each other and get information about educational sims. (Many educational sims are not listed in search menu....surprise! surprise!)
11. Learn to make sculptie, AO and machinima and pass on the skills to your students. These skiils will enrich your students' learning experiences in any subjects.
12. Never click those POSE BALLS, especially the ones with F and M text on it. You don't want your teaching with web 2.0 turns into infidelity 2.0.
Just my two cents.......That's all I can think of right now. I will post some more tips in the future.