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?