Cooperative Learning in SL
Since December 5th 2010 I’ve been running a course in SL with 11 adult students from the Danish Master Program on ICT and Learning (MIL). The purpose of the course has been to introduce SL as teaching and learning medium based on a combination of literature studies and in-world activities. As part of the assessment criteria the students are expected to present a pedagogic analysis of SL. One student is working on her own, whereas the remaining 10 students have formed four groups; 1) Tree Crown, 2) milis, 3) MIL-Health, and 4) MILOVIOLA. The students have two hours in-world to do their presentations in designated sandboxes, and the analysis should meet the following criteria:
- Address pedagogic design questions related to a target group of their own choice – all students are somehow working with teaching/training
- Include a problem formulation – PBL is the pedagogic foundation of the course
- Consist of a combination of theoretical issues transformed into practical activities in-world
- Demonstrate knowledge of SL by using a min. of two locations during the presentations, and by using in-world objects
- Demonstrate mastery of in-world features and objects by including an interactive element, where the presenting group teaches their fellow students something relevant to the analysis
- Include time for peer-feedback and reflection on the experience (of presenting and teaching their peers in-world)
On Tuesday January 11th students Yaz Aldrin, Petter Gearbox, and Yann Soz from the “Tree Crown” group did their presentation.
Teaching and learning in SL can be challenging due to technical issues, and throughout the course the students have been confronted with some of these issues – mainly related to voice- and lag problems. On this particular evening new technical issues arose. Approximately one hour before the group was supposed to start their presentation, I logged in-world to see if they were all set. The group had been allocated our regular sandbox on the Wonderful Denmark island, but as we were standing there talking about their presentation Linden Lab sent out a message stating that the region would be closed down within 5 min. due to maintenance. Luckily, we have access to several sandboxes in the course, and I decided we should go to one on the Innovative Learning island that VIA College kindly has lend us. Having never experienced this kind of technical problem before, the three students managed to stay calm, and set up their presentation screen in this new sandbox, and send out notice to the rest of the students that the start location had been changed. Despite the general confusion and due to the change of start location all students managed to find their way to this new location, but as the group started their presentation the sandbox got griefed which meant that our computer screens turned grey, froze, and eventually we were all logged out.
Fortunately, one of the students in this class, Inge Qunhua, is an experienced land-owner, and Inge managed to get rid of the griefer and his objects so that we could all return, and the group could finally start their presentation entitled “Didactic Analysis of Cooperative Learning in Second Life”.
Finally ready to present in VIA College’s Sandbox …
One of the students in the group, Petter works as a secondary school teacher, and has been experimenting with the concept of Cooperative Learning and Kagan Structures, which has been developed by Dr. Spence Kagan. Characteristic of this teaching and learning concept is its ability to promote pupil/student engagement through structured activities. Below is a short video-introduction:
Given Petter’s positive experience with this concept in real life classrooms, the Tree Crown group decided to investigate how this concept could be applied in a medium like SL.
At the core of Cooperative Learning are so-called Kagan Structures that can be described as patterns of interaction between pupils/students, and after a short theoretical presentation of the foundation and principles behind these structures, the group had decided that we should try out one of the structures called Partners. To engage in this structure the group divided their fellow students into pairs, which then were divided in two groups, A and B. Both groups were given landmarks to separate locations and were asked to teleport off to explore these locations.
Group A was asked to visit the Chateau de Chenonceau, and engage in the different dances available there.
Group B, which I followed, was asked to go experience the effects of a tsunami on NOAA/ESRL, Virtual Island, Meteora.
After exploring these locations, we all returned to the sandbox. Here the students were asked to find their partners and go back to the locations to discuss their findings, and they were instructed how to use voice-calls in pairs. Back in the sandbox once again, the Tree Crown group elaborated on the applied Partner structure, their pedagogical considerations regarding the planning and organization of this activity, and finally asked their fellow students to reflect upon the experience.
Throughout their presentation Petter, Yann and Yaz skillfully transformed central theoretical points into SL activities and dialogue, and we all got the sense that Cooperative Learning could be applied in many ways in SL. Given the relatively short amount of time the students have spent in-world, I was quite impressed by the way they kept their calm despite the technical difficulties, the way they had organized their presentation, and how they managed to guide and instruct their fellow students.