Learning in “simulated worlds” is not a new idea – but the HP Catalyst team at City Academy in Norwich (UK) has a new approach… and some fascinating insights about its impact on at-risk students.
Jerome Thompson, a teacher at City Academy Norwich, is one of the lead developers of theEco-Virtual Environment (EVE) Project. He presented recently at the BETT Show in London, sharing how they are using an open source immersive simulation platform (www.opensimulator.org) to engage students in science and math inquiry.
In a 3D virtual world, where you come as an “avatar”, students have partial anonymity. Though their names are still visible, in EVE there are only two avatar types (male and female). Because they don’t look like themselves and because all communication is accomplished via text chat in-world, the EVE teachers have observed important social changes.
“Students at our school (as with many) are developing their confidence. They do not always feel comfortable sharing an idea with a class due to the peer pressure and possible historic experiences with less sensitive teachers. In EVE they are all happy to contribute. They have the freedom to walk, run, fly, dive, zoom in and out on details – they find themselves in a surreal classroom with no walls and an utterly different set of social rules. Peer pressure / bullying is often a complex and refined interaction that involves tone of voice, expression, physical stance etc. In EVE these things just don’t exist and all of the students are equal.” (...) The class, as Mullis tells me, goes silent as the students immerse themselves in a distant world to take on the challenge together.
According to David Brunton, principal at City Academy Norwich, “What an honour and opportunity for staff and pupils to demonstrate their skills and achievement with this cutting edge development. The learning software unites game theory, team work, decision making and knowledge to produce an absorbing way to learn. This type of learning ensures the future success of City Academy Norwich students, which is the ultimate aim of our academy.”
Via CM Elias