Virtual Worlds (VW’s) are bringing new challenges and a possible disruption of campus life as we know it to the forefront of higher education institutions via virtual campus creation. The quest for exceptional immersive learning spaces requires leaders in higher education and institutions to reflect on processes and practices into VW and 3D environments.
In their book E-Learning Ecologies: Principles for New Learning and Assessment, Bill Cope and Mary Kalantzis explore the role of new technologies in communication with learners, changing knowledge representation and the role of new technologies in transforming educational institutions. E-learning has created robust learning societies outside academia. I predict that in the near future, educators, students, and VW participants will spend considerable time in VW’s interacting with each other.
Exploring new technological resources such as VW’s and their unique environments opens new dimensions of the formative teaching and learning process. The landscape of these”multimodal” workspaces has a global reach. Pierre Baldi and Crista Lopez discuss in their article The Universal Campus: An open virtual 3-D world infrastructure for research and education the “Universal Campus”, providing a campus 3-D virtual world with multiple buildings featuring fully furnished laboratories, classrooms, meeting rooms, auditoriums, concert spaces, libraries ,and lecture halls enabling virtual meetings and interactions for faculty, students, visitors, and administration. In my opinion, VW together with 3 D technology such as the Oculus will create innovative, global, transformative knowledge spaces.
VW’s strengths as learning platforms for English language teaching and training lie in their multinational, multiethnic, and multilingual set-up. They essentially are a sandbox for highly immersive experiential learning where almost any conceivable educational scenario can be simulated and carried out. In-World students often identify strongly with their alter-ego avatar. Avatars can manipulate and use objects while socially networking in a 3D environment. With an alter ego buffering the self-conscious hurdle of fluency practice participants are more likely to speak to peers and mentors, join and/or form groups to meet like-minded persons, seek out casual conversations and enjoy educative congregating such as coffee house socializing, fire-pit talks or rezzing in to meet new group members for hang-outs.
Generally, participants experience VW’s as less intimidating places which enable both native and non-native interaction with a potential for community building and Virtual World –> Real World (RW) carryover. Particularly favored features are instantaneous virtual traveling (teleporting) to RW locations in SL, the existence of support groups and forums for formal and informal learning, all of which enable L2 language acquisition through experimental experiences.
Exploring new technological resources such as Virtual Worlds and their unique environments new dimensions of the formative process break current space-temporal barriers by opening up the ESL teaching field. The contexts within the Virtual Worlds (VW) requires thoughts about how ESL participants learn, the interaction between participants, teachers and ‘drop-ins’ or visitors. One of the questions I have formed is: How do international ESL learners interact with their peers and their instructors in a VW?
New demands in fluency and real-life response time makes new complex learning approaches appear. Classroom ESL teaching has a synchronous response tied to a physical student presence, participation, and scaffolded testing. Learning, as a social process, improves to the person, interrogates it, situates it in front of the people who surrounds him and about himself, at the same time that it lets the development and the learning of people and organizations. Communication is established, thus, the central act of human life (Cortese, 2004).
VW’s unique delivery of both synchronous and asynchronous learning is the relation of a social and shared perspective. Exploring, sharing and learning in a VW opens up new venues of student network collaborations. Generally, ESL language acquisition cannot be understood without this social and perspective.The questions to be explored with further reading and going VW are: Is there a successful schemata for ESL in VW? If yes, what does it look like>? What is the experience for the students? What is the learning philosophy of the creator of the ESL VW environments?
An accepted paper by Jasmin B. Cowin, Ed.D. for the TESOL Conference, November 3rd and 4th, 2016 in Syracuse, New York.
I am embarking on a journey of discovery with critical questions in my mind: How does an ESL facilitator put virtual environments to practical use? The purpose of my paper and presentation encompasses several areas which I will explore in future blogs. An essential element will be describing and analyzing my experience as the avatar ‘Muse Terpsichore’ in virtual worlds during my online summer “Games and Simulations” course at Marlboro College for Professional and Graduate Studies in Brattleboro, VT. Another component will focus on describing and comparing the virtual worlds of Jokaydia Grid and Second Life. Immersed in these virtual environments I will investigate their suitability for ESL education with a closer look at areas such as experiential learning, fluency practice, virtual classroom meetings, grammar, and storytelling. I look forward to an in-depth exploration into content availability and suitability for independent, guided, synchronous and asynchronous student-teacher interaction and collaboration. Finally, I want to examine the difference between the student and administrator view of virtual environments. How does a virtual world look like to an administrator or student? What set-up work is necessary to stage for a successful learning experience? What skills does an administrator or student need to successfully implement and engage in a virtual learning component?
I hope you will check in often to read about my ambitious journey into the alternate universes and creative teaching possibilities within virtual worlds.