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Ridvan Ata, University of Sheffield

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Ridvan Ata
27 February 2015

As a consequence of rapid developments in ICT (Information Communication Technology), three-dimensional virtual learning environments (3D MUVE) have become a focus of interest for teaching and learning environments particularly in higher education over the last decades. Therefore, the primary aim of my study is to develop a deeper understanding of 3D MUVEs, sometimes called Virtual Worlds, such as Second Life (SL), and investigate its impact on teaching practices in higher education. That is, this research explores teaching experiences of educators within the virtual world of Second Life and pedagogical practices adopted. A Case Study with an ethnographic perspective is employed. A blended approach is applied by using physical classrooms,BlackboardTM, web-based resources, and the virtual world of Second Life in an Information Literacy class for 1st year undergraduate students at an institution in the UK. In reflecting on and evaluating the teaching experiences, evidence is drawn from observations, semi structured interviews, chatlogs, snapshots, and field notes. A thematic approach is used to analyse the data. The findings from the data analysis are presented in terms of seven themes: cybergogy, creativity, trial and error, wow moment, uncertainty, experiential learning, and dynamic relationship. The overall conclusion is followed by recommendations derived from the research, and the implications of the study for potential immersive teaching experiences are discussed.

 

There is an ongoing project in Turkey, which is known as FATIH “Movement of Enhancing Opportunities and Improving Technology” that proposes to equip 42,000 schools and 570,000 classes that are in preschool education, primary education and secondary education with tablets and LCD Interactive Boards (FATIH 2012). This project is among the most significant educational investments of Turkey. The FATIH project aims to bring over 11 million tablets to the students across the schools in the next 4 or 5 years, at the time of this writing. Within the scope of my further project, it is firstly aimed to construct an elective course of “Design of Educational Environments in virtual worlds” with stakeholders such as formative ICT teachers in schools in order to provide them in-service practicing. In the further stages of the project, it is then aimed to design and experience a virtual space, named as “Gallipoli”, which is considered to be one of the greatest victories during the history of World War I. The attempt is for students to make a sense of space, primarily for those who have difficulties or challenges to visit the place in person by accessing Second Life via tablets. The motivation here is to explore engagements in the perception of the experience of places, particularly in the forms of historical, ritual, and memorial places within virtual worlds. The project aims to demonstrate the impact that experience of space has on the learning of students in Second Life and explore how virtual space influences students’ perceptions of physical space. The idea may be similar to that of the studies conducted before, however, it is unique within the context of Turkey. The Ministry of Youth and Sports expressed their interest in the initial proposal and indicated that the proposal would be supported with a funding of £100K for an exhaustive project. I believe that workshop will help me justify and argue aspects of using virtual worlds via tablets as a mobile learning. The workshop is an opportunity for me to drive forward my experience in exploring conceptions around new devices and have an impact on training educators in developing countries.  

This workshop will help to present and discuss new concepts, aiming to identify rationales for implementation. In addition to this, this workshop is an opportunity to provide a venue for me to network and learn together, which enrich professional lives of the individuals. The ability to meet colleagues from geographically remote locations to discuss, create and explore concepts can be a major factor in improving teaching strategies. Similarly, this meeting helps promote current awareness, critical thinking skills as well as cohesion of the participants.  This is an effort to build a culture of participation within an interconnected sense, which foregrounds the importance of the experiential nature of teaching, and highlights collaboration with one’s colleagues as a continued part of improving one’s practice. In many ways, this is the opportunity for me to become articulate about my practice as well as to see others teach, to examine artefacts of teaching and learning, to reflect on my work, to explore the details of practices.

It is aimed to disseminate the outcomes of the workshops and the new knowledge/skills I have acquired within meetings in Second Life. For instance, Virtual Worlds Education Roundtable, which is an inspirational example of a virtual community in Second Life, was founded in 2008 in an attempt to share ideas and talk about issues that concern educators regarding current issues. It is not uncommon to see attendance of around 40 participants or more in a meeting in these group gatherings. Another good example is there are monthly discussion events in SL, where participants share their conceptions and learn from each other and help to understand different perspectives in a global sense. I aim to share the outcomes of this workshop within these events.

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