SL and Physics lessons – between Heaven and Hell!

Since December 5th, 2011 I’ve been running a PD class with students from the Master’s Program on ICT & Learning (MIL) at Aalborg University, and in order to pass the course, the students were asked to do in-world team presentations on the teaching and learning potential of SL. On Wednesday January 25th, Team E had to do their presentation, and this is the final post describing the students’ presentations. Background information on the course/the presentation task can be found in the post describing the first presentation, and here are links to the second, third, and fourth presentations.

Team E and their focus

Team E: Anina & Happytown

Team E’s members, Anina & Happytown are both K-12 teachers, and one of the challenges they have experienced in relation to teaching Physics in RL, is that the pupils often find it to be a boring subject matter, and so they wanted to investigate the possibility of using SL to design for fun and engaging activities, leading to the following investigation question:

How can physical activities be remediated in Second Life?

Well knowing that SL doesn’t allow for users below 16, Team E made a point out of explaining how their work should be seen as a pilot test for later exploration in a closed environment in Open Sim.

Team E’s sandbox
Just as the previous four teams, Team E also had a sandbox available from December 9th, 2011, and the pictures below reflect the progression in their work.

On December 17th, nothing much seemed to be happening in Team E’s sandbox.

A couple of days later on December 19th this shape – looking like The COI model – appeared.

Just a few days before the Midway presentation Team E’s sandbox still looked quite empty on January 1st, but we were in for a big surprise :-)

During their midway presentation on January 3rd, Team E showed us examples of how physics can be applied in SL.

… and Team E had designed animated sleighs, which their fellow classmates were invited to try out.

And then by January 11th, Team E’s building process had really taken off.

Team E also had a cute angel hovering above their sandbox on January 11th.

January 13th; more things started to happen in the air surrounding Team E’s sandbox.

On January 17th, I met briefly with Team E’s Anina to show her how to create a shared media screen.

On January, 21st it became very clear that something different was going on in Team E’s sandbox …

But exactly what, remained to be seen …

Team E’s presentation
Team E’s agenda looked like this: 

  • Remediation
  • Physics
  • Exercises
  • Reflections on our design – What have we been thinking?
  • Visit to Oddprofessor’s Museum and Science Center
  • A heavenly closure in the sky

Team E’s slide display on one of the clouds.

Team E made extensive use of the shared media feature throughout their presentation, and chose to show their slides on one of the clouds. The tricky issue with shared media is that each user sees the displayed media individually and so the start and stopping point of a video differs. However, Team E had sent out instruction prior to their presentation and after further elaboration in-world, everybody seemed to be on the same “slide”. The team explained how they had wanted to investigate Bolter & Grusin’s concept of remediation and use it to redesign some exercises from an existing instructional design from a Physics class.

The continuum of remediation.

As part of Team E’s design strategy, they had chosen to remediate the activities in the exercises in a respectful manner drawing on RL examples, and then remediate the setting in a more radical manner based on a Heaven-Hell analogy. By drawing on different aspects of the remediation continuum, Team E wanted to design authentic exercises that would stimulate their target group’s learning and engagement due to the more fun and interesting surroundings.

Graphic overview of some key elements in Physics.

After this brief introduction to their design ideas, Team E went on to explain about the exercises that the other teams had to do, and we were asked to follow the “highway” and enter Hell …

On the Highway to Hell … aka to the Physics exercises!

Each team had been assigned their own place in Hell …

With some help from my co-facilitator, Inge Team E had designed four sound-proof rooms, one for each team, that all contained three different exercises. For each exercise, different information was displayed as text or videos, and the teams had to complete at least one exercise, and write the results in shared documents.

Gravity exercise with a ball of lava to calculate mean acceleration.

Pendulums to calculate cycle time in Factor Physics.

Calculating friction of different materials.

Results from the exercises had to be written in the shared docs on the walls.

I didn’t manage to visit all teams, but all of them seemed to be fully engaged in the exercises, which was no surprise with the great designs and devilish teachers:


and Happytown – their mere appearance made me listen carefully too ;-)

After the exercises, it was time to resurface and go back to Heaven.

The Stairway to Heaven.

Back in the clouds, Happytown and Anina returned to their investigation question and elaborated on some of the theories (Wadley, The COI-model) they had used to support their work. Based on Nielsen’s work, Team E spoke of the necessity of the users’ ability to use their imaginative powers to feel immersed in an environment such as SL, and about the need to design for active knowledge construction via in-world artifacts.

The COI model on display.

For the mandatory tour outside the team’s own sandbox, Team E had chosen Oddprofessor’s Museum and Science Center, and we were asked to go there and explore the many fine examples of interactive objects and activities for further inspiration. The place has been created by Oddprofessor Snoodle who uses it to teach Physics/Chemistry for deaf students, and the place is filled with fun and engaging learning activties.

Exploring the many activities in front of the Free Fall Towers.

Learning through bowling :-)

My co-facilitator, Inge volunteered to stand in the line of fire from the canon!

Back in Team E’s sandbox, it was time for reflection and feedback.

Truly a beautiful setting for the final team presentation in the course.

Team E had wanted to show us, how SL can be used for teaching RL Physics, and I think they made a very convincing case. Their ambitious design impressed all of us, and it was a pleasure to witness such a good use of many of the features in SL. Anina & Happytown really have embraced SL, and their enthusiasm shone through their presentation, making many of us wonder what we could have learned, if only we had had the opportunity to learn Physics this way! In summary, Team E provided us with a very fine closure of this course on the educational use/potential of 3D Virtual Worlds :-)


4 responses to “SL and Physics lessons – between Heaven and Hell!”

  1. Liz D. says :

    Amazing! It’s great that the class participants can do so much with the environment after such a short time in-world. I hope they get the opportunity to try out the ideas with their students.

    Chimera Cosmos

  2. Mariis says :

    yes, it is amazing :-) Especially the k-12 teachers seem very interested in continuing working with 3D VWs – so I think, I’ll ask Jokay if she has the time to meet with us in her grid …

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