Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Our Students are Immersed in 3D Learning

We are fortunate to have very creative teachers in Coquitlam School District.  A couple of our middle school teachers (at Banting), on their own initiative, discovered Quest Atlantis, a 3D immersive learning environment.  Quest Atlantis (QA) is “an international learning and teaching project that uses a 3D multi-user environment to immerse children, ages 9-16, in educational tasks” developed at the University of Indiana. 

Meghan describes how QA supports her students learning
Meghan Enga provides a great overview of how her students are using this.  She is partnered with Cory Cleto (another teacher at Banting Middle school) and her class on this initiative.

Quick side bar, it’s amazing how easily these kids are able to talk about what they’re doing and learning.  With no preparation, warning, and very little prompting, they take us on their own personal learning journeys.  How cool is that.

Dr. Sasha Barab is the principle researcher for the Quest Atlantis project.  From Dr. Barab’s website we learn that

His current work involves the research and development of rich learning environments, frequently with the aid of technology, that are designed to assist children in developing their sense of purpose as individuals, as members of their communities, and as knowledgeable citizens of the world.

From the QA website we discover that “QA combines strategies used in the commercial gaming environment with lessons from educational research on learning and motivation.”  So, let’s start the journey with Jonathan. 

Jonathan takes us to Africa to research land use
He’s working on the quest Ms. Enga shared with us earlier – he goes to Africa and investigates land use options.  There is an apparent need for an animal reserve but a conflicting need for the villagers to use the land for food.  Jonathan takes us into the virtual world and shows us a small piece of the fairly complex learning journey he takes to figure out how to advise the decision makers in that African community.  Note that what he shows us is only the tip of the iceberg – these quests are very involved and multi-layered.

Melissa learns to resolve an argument
Next, Melissa shows us how, through Quest Atlantis, she comes to her conclusion on how to resolve an argument between skaters and bikers.

Kids are able to work at their own pace, in school, from home, etc.  There is a distance learning teacher on Vancouver Island who often chooses to support and help kids and teachers in the virtual world.  There are classes around the world involved as well so kids do encounter students and teachers from other “real” cultures in the course of completing their quests.

The system tracks student learning and informs their teachers of their progress.  Teachers receive completed tasks and steps in their virtual inbox for review and evaluation.

I strongly encourage you to visit the QA website and explore the information there.  You can download and experiment as a guest.  It is a very interesting learning model that you may find useful for you and your students.

Perhaps you have experienced online immersive learning environments and can share your thoughts with me. What do you think about these kinds of learning tools?  Do you think they have potential to increase or enrich student learning and engagement?