The SLENZ Update – No 1 August 1, 2008

NZ Educators ‘invited’

New Zealand educators – and their adult students – will soon be able to “live and learn” in a virtual 3D world.

The New Zealand virtual world education group, Second Life Education New Zealand (SLENZ), is to invite groups of New Zealand educators to join its research project in the on-line virtual world of Second Life in September.

Funded by the New Zealand Tertiary Education Commission the research project, which has been set up to learn how multi-user virtual environments might be used to improve student learning, has already attracted considerable interest from educators.

Using the multi-user virtual environment Second Life, the project aims to delineate and demonstrate to New Zealand educators and students the educational strengths of learning in a virtual world.

“Multi-user virtual environments, in which individuals create avatars, digital representations of themselves to ‘live’ in a 3D virtual ‘world’, are offering a revolutionary view of how individuals and educational communities may interact and learn in the future,” joint leader Terry Neal said of the recently launched project.

Originating from multi-user online games, the virtual landscapes created in virtual worlds like Second Life, are already natural playgrounds for many younger, adult learners.

Joint leader Dr Clare Atkins said that virtual world environments are considered, anecdotally, to have a number of strengths which differentiate them from other online learning environments.

These include the increased engagement of learners with a familiar game-like environment where learning may intentionally be a product of serious ‘play’ ; the ability to create experiential learning situations not available in “real life”; the opportunity to learn the skills necessary to operate socially, technically and ethically in an online global virtual world; and also the opportunity to experience and practice collaborative, cross-cultural problem solving in social networking environments.

“These multi-user virtual environments offer the opportunity to provide innovative delivery to New Zealand learners and to encourage collaborative development and the sharing of learning resources,” Dr Atkins said.

The project team plans to invite applications from groups of educators to work with the project team next month.

“We are not looking for individuals or groups that already have Second Life experience, although this would be an advantage,” Ms Neal said. “We are looking for enthusiasm to explore the new opportunities collaboratively.”

The project team, she said, would provide support “every step of the way” with funding available to release a participant in each group from some teaching responsibilities so they can commit themselves to the project as well as travel costs associated with the training.

Educators wishing to pursue the possibilities of education Second Life should contact either clare.atkins@nmit.ac.nz or Terry Neal at terry.neal@blendedsolutions.co.nz to express interest.

If you have any questions Terry can be phoned on 04 233 2587.

 

 

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