… a campfire and a can of beans!

Using virtual environments for educational purposes

Teaming up in great virtual worlds – meet and learn together no matter of the physical distance – communicate, discuss, and play – talk to experts – master quests – experience adventures – see worlds you’ve never expected to see – experience events from the past or the future…

Virtual worlds offer an indescribable range of possibilities to meet, communicate, experience, and learn as individual or in groups. Virtual worlds offer, in contrast to the regular classrooms, a strong motivational potential, they are boosting interest, curiosity and the will to explore. Virtual worlds are a perfect educational playground!

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Virtual environments, for example based on the ‘save’ islands of OpenSim offer great possibilities for education and teaching; students from all over the world can meet ‘at a campfire’ and practice a second language, classes can enter ancient Rome and experience the life of Caesar, or students can ‘feel’ what topography really means when floating through the mountains of the Himalaya.

nextREALITY offers ideas and guidelines of how to use OpenSim in the ‘real’ classroom; it leads you through safety and technology concerns and illustrates pedagogical approach for an effective uptake of virtual worlds in ‘serious’ teaching.

But nextREALITY is more! In the light of monitoring, controlling, and assessing what is going on in a virtual scenario, educators need technological support. With the desire of formatively supporting and teaching students in the most individualized way, teachers have to gain a deeper insight of individual achievements, performance and behaviors.

Imagine 20 people entering and spreading all over a virtual world – keeping an overview about what’s going on is too much for a single person. Thus, nextREALITY offers a software application that helps teachers by gathering information about what each and every student is doing in the virtual world and about the entire ongoing communication. This is nextREALITY’sTeacher Control Center (TCC)!

The TCC allows connecting teachers to the virtual world by analyzing the protocols (which hold each and every activity and communication). Teachers can view a variety of statistics of what happened and about who did or said what: Communication intensity over time, collaborations, or the frequency of certain activities

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In addition, TCC provides real time monitoring. This means that a teacher receives information if someone uses specific terms (e.g., inappropriate language) anywhere in the virtual world. Activities and terms can be freely defined by the teacher.

A link to competencies. Not only activities are important! It is important to link activities to competencies and learning performance. Ideally automatically. Thus, TCC comes with a heuristics engine. This allows teachers to define rules and link behaviors and communications to competencies or learning progress.

All the information gathered and all the results of heuristic based analyses can be summarized in comprehensive reports and exported. More importantly, TCC offers interfaces to other components such as myClass., so achievements can directly be exported to other tools.

What about a journey to the village of Chatterdale?

Chatterdale looks like a very normal, calm English town – but there is a dreadful secret! All the people have suddenly disappeared and it seems that Prof. Jones was the only one who was aware of the threat. Unfortunately he has disappeared as well. Various institutions, including a private investigation company, that was hired by Prof. Jones’ aunt, send teams to Chatterdale to find out what had happened …

This is one of the two fully worked out, ready-to-use quests in the safe world of OpenSim that make part of the nextREALITY package …

nextREALITY has been developed in the context of the European Next-Tell project! Check it out at www.next-tell.eu!

 

For OpenSim/Chatterdale: gerhilde.meissl-egghart@chello.at, klaus.h@me.com
For the Teacher Control Center Software: michael.kickmeier-rust@tugraz.at

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