Friday, June 13, 2014

Ponderings of an Open Sim Pioneer


My students and I have been on an amazing journey this year. We've had the privilege of engaging in learning and exploring through a virtual world.  I began this journey back in August and, at the time, I had no idea the massive journey I was about to undertake.  Islands of Enlightenment was conceived by Andrew Wheelock of Erie Boces and essentially was an effort to bring students into a virtual learning environment through a platform similar to Second Life.  I became involved in the project on year #2 to help create a gamified virtual world focused around Medieval Times.  I had some experience gamifying my curriculum (http://mrsmaryhoward118.wix.com/knowledgeispower)  .....and so I leaped on board and that is where the Heir of the King was hatched.

This project involved students exploring the Kingdom of Stormfield....a Kingdom in need of an Heir. Each student donned an avatar and logged into the virtual world. The unit was gamified so that learning took place in the form of earning badges and earning XP points in lieu of grades. Each level along the way, students expanded their knowledge of the Singularity Open Sim platform and also gained critical knowledge of feudalism and Medieval Society. The final project took the form of Evidence Based Writing whereby students were required to state a claim regarding the rightful heir to the throne of Stormfield and provide evidence to support their claim.


For more:
https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1wjqsLJnKwbJalBIpSBwzgqhGhD5QET6-f1bFDcFQZUk/edit?usp=sharing

After the project, unquestionably, students clamored for more.  But when you're done, you're done, right? NOPE!!  I couldn't let it go (and neither could they).  So off we went into project #2 the Invention Convention.  In this project, students were given a store front in a mall and were taken through the patent process from Product Conception, Prototype, Patent Application to Marketing and Sales....all within a virtual world.

For more: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1Go8Gje74nD4__peDFbzG9LxVom6e0OT2_r7gYKG_5Z4/edit?usp=sharing

With both projects, I marveled in so many ways: at the challenges, at the depth of learning that takes place when teachers and students take risks, and  at the rewards of 'letting go'.  As I result, I have concocted this list of ponderings about being on OpenSim Pioneer.

#1. Parallel Play
You can't know it all....don't try.  Learn from your learners.  Explore with your learners.  There is great joy and a rich experience in the journey itself.

#2.  Let things Unfold Organically
The Heir of the King was prescribed and prepackaged and involved a LOT of preparation...countless hours.  It was a great way to expose students to virtual learning experiences and with the Gamification component, it was HIGHLY motivating.  Invention Convention involved WAY less preparation, nonetheless, there was an EXPLOSION of creativity

#3. Be Patient (with yourself and with your learners)
You'll need to troubleshoot on the spot.  You'll need to repeat yourself.  You'll need to enlist the aid of more intuitive digital builders to help others. You WON'T know everything. The system WILL crash.

#4. Creativity Can't be Anticipated.
With the patent project, I had a general idea of what I wanted and provided a skeletal framework to the students with a basic set of objectives.  Each student had a storefront and they were asked to decorate.  HA!!!!!  My students expanded their stores, added second levels, built tree houses, formed groups added lounge areas, pools, massive signs, etc.

#5. You ARE Teaching!
It's like Ragu...it's IN there.  It wasn't until I sat down, reviewed the CCLS and brainstormed that I realized over 12 standards were solidly covered within the patent project from communication and collaboration to cross curricular connections and in the Heir of the King project we had completed an entire unit of study!

HEIR OF THE KING

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INVENTION CONVENTION

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Sim-ply Amazing.....Using Your Smarticles!!