Friday, October 30, 2009

Whole class meeting in SL

A couple weeks ago, I met with my WRIT 121 class in Second Life as a whole. In other words, instead of meeting f2f on a Tuesday evening, we all met at Angel Learning Isle.

As you know, up to this point, I had met with students only in small groups on the balcony of my office.

Now we would meet in the classroom area.

The purpose of the class was for students to read/review the virtual lecture on thesis statements and then to get into three groups, where they would discuss their thesis statements, using some specific prompts to help them make sure they were working with a position that brought insight to the issue.

The lecture link was available on a sign with a screen shot of the first page of the lecture (behind me in this picture).

The prompts were available on a notecard in the blue box in the middle of the seating circle.

In a f2f class, I would have them get into groups, spread throughout the classroom, and they would take turns sharing/discussing.

In regular online classes, I would have them discuss in text chat sessions at different times.

Here on Angel Learning Isle, I had them spatially get up, move to three corners of the classroom area, and stand next to teleportation globes. Once I saw that the groups were evenly divided, I had them teleport to three sky class areas (one a gallion, or pirate ship), where they discussed their thesis statements. Doing so made it possible for them to discuss in small groups without hearing (if using voice) or seeing (if using text chat) the other group's discussion.

Once I got everyone situated--I had to lead a group from my balcony over to the classroom area--the explanation of what we were going to do, the reviewing of the lecture, the receipt of the note card prompts, and the movement to the sky discussion areas went smoothly.

While they met in groups, I stayed in the classroom area, in case late students showed up, and in case students had questions. When students had questions, they would IM me, which can be done anywhere in SL; one need not be close by.

What is interesting is that one student, instead of IMing, teleported back to the classroom, asked his question, and then returned to his group. It seemed like he did so deliberately, almost like he wanted the movement. That sense of movement, of going from one place to another, seems to add to engagement, much like having students move around in a classroom to break up a long class session. Online students participating in a text or voice chat never have a sense of movement within a landscape of any sort while working with each other.

I didn't have them return to the classroom area. Like I did with my online class that uses only the Angel LMS for chat, I had them write a note to send to me through the Angel drop box, summarizing what group said.

What I often do f2f is have groups report to class and share what they discovered from the group interaction. I didn't even think to have this class do so in SL, but of course, I could have, and might try that next time.

I don't know if I'll have any more whole class meetings this semester. But I do know that when I mentioned returning to f2f the next week, some students expressed disappointment, especially those who discussed their thesis statements in the hull of a pirate ship!

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