Case Study 7: Virtual worlds for teacher education (collaborative evaluation and design)

Face-to-face student view

Face-to-face student view

Remote student view

Remote student view

Matt Bower

Matt Bower

In this design by Matt Bower from Macquarie University, remotely located student teachers participated in face-to-face tutorials through the Avaya Live virtual world environment. Students in the face-to-face classroom could see and hear remote students’ avatars via a projection of the virtual world on the side wall of the classroom, and remote students could see and hear their face-to-face peers via a video stream within the virtual world. The approach was used in a second-year ICT education subject aimed at encouraging pre-service teachers to consider how emerging technologies such as virtual worlds may be used to enable new forms of interaction and participation. The lesson included a slide-supported presentation, whole-class discussions in which students indicated their perceptions about the utility of virtual worlds, and group brainstorming activities about the use of virtual worlds in education. Student preferences were represented using their physical placement in the virtual and face-to-face classrooms as well as through the raising of hands to vote. Group work was attempted in separate breakout areas in both spaces, with group notes automatically shared on separate surfaces in the virtual world classroom. A design activity was also completed in which groups of students in both environments were asked to design an engaging virtual world lesson that was then subjected to evaluation by the entire class. Network and system issues affected the quality of the student experience, but the trial served as proof of concept that ‘blended-reality’ (Bower, Cram & Groom, 2010) classes are a feasible learning and teaching approach.