When I was exploring the educational virtual worlds provided to us this week, it strongly reminded my of my experience playing Grand Theft Auto, except there were no cars to steal, or pedestrians to run over. Still that icky feeling returned and I felt myself rejecting this style of learning. That said, what impressed me the most during this week was what Gord Holden’s students had been able to teach themselves and create in these virtual learning environments.
Many of my current students are obsessed with MMOW (Massively Multiplayer Online Worlds) and MMRPGs (Massively Multiplayer Role Playing Games) In an assignment for my History 12 class last semester I had students attempt to publish their own Wikipedia articles with the goal of teaching them the value and shortcomings of Wikipedia as a resource. As part of this assignment we discussed relevance and audience. Many of my students chose to write articles about famous MMRPG players, citing the size of the online tournaments, the millions of viewers and even the massive stakes that are up for grabs. From a viewership and financial perspective MMRPGs would probably compete against many minor professional sports in terms of interest. Still, outside or recognizing the students interests and relating to them, I have no personal interest in these games or virtual worlds. As much of my extracurricular involvement centers around coaching and promoting outdoor and mountain bike clubs I would much rather be involved with “real” sports over virtual ones. Personal bias aside I think that to dismiss immersive technology or to not support students who were interested in it would be a mistake. I think that there is a tremendous opportunity for students to showcase their learning in a virtual world. I believe that if the pedagogy allows for a diverse spectrum of presentation as many inquiry based approaches do, this style of presentation and creativity could be a viable form for students to demonstrate and facilitate their learning. I look forward to working with students who want to learn using student appropriate virtual environments, but I am pretty happy to leave my Avatar days behind me.