Using virtual worlds to engage gifted learners
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In this video, students in a gifted classroom use the multi-user learning environment Quest Atlantis to explore issues related to the creation of a game reserve in Tanzania. Interviews with the teacher and students offer perspectives on the value of using virtual worlds in the classroom.
This video is one in a five-part series about integrating technology into differentiated instruction. The other videos include:
- Using Technology to Differentiate by Content
- Using Technology to Differentiate by Process
- Using Technology to Differentiate by Product
- Using Technology to Differentiate by Learning Environment
The videos are associated with the article “Inclusion in the 21st-Century Classroom: Differentiating with Technology.”
- Dr. Alena Treat (00:08)
- The technology seems to be very, very transparent. They aren’t really noticing that there is a computer. They’re focused on their avatar, performing certain quests. They’re focused on what their mission is. They’re focusing on the task, not the technology. The technology is obviously there, they have to have it in order to do this, but it’s so neat because when you hear them talk, they aren’t saying, "My avatar’s doing this," they’re saying, "I’m doing this." I think the transparency is there, the technology sort of disappears.
- Student (00:49)
- I think it’s important that you use technology like this to incorporate into your lessons because most kids, if you just lecture them on this stuff, they’ll fall asleep in the middle of it, and if you actually use the technology, they’ll actually become engrossed in this and actually want to do all the quests, learn all this stuff, and most times you don’t even realize that you’re learning it.
- Student (01:11)
- We’re learning, and it’s school, but we’re, it’s like we’re just doing a game at home, anything we usually do, but we’re getting grades for it. So it’s fun at the same time, it’s in an educational way, even though we don’t like to think of it as educational, it still is.
- Student (01:32)
- Ms. Treat can, like, assign quests that go along with our curriculum in like actual school, and so she could like assign you a quest, and you have to do it, and you have to go find different people and then whenever you finish your quest, usually you have to write a response to the quest, and usually there’s like a big question, that’s like an open-ended thing, and you have to like write a paragraph about it at the end.
- Student (01:51)
- When we’re doing the quest, Making Mkomazi, we write down notes in here, that way, you know, we — it’s not all just fun, we still have, you know, little notes and stuff to do like school. Mkomazi has a really poor, like, economy, so some people are going to give money to either tourism or farm production, so we had to write down pros and cons about each one. That way we could make a choice and help them decide.
- Dr. Alena Treat (02:21)
- Sometimes they go home sick, they, like, they catch the flu, or the virus or something, and I catch them online, doing their missions and quests. I don’t assign outside work. They are not required to do any outside work for me, but yet they’re going on at nights, weekends, when they’re sick, and they’re doing this. So the extra motivation that’s involved with this program and the experience that they have that seems so real is what’s really, really impressing me.
- Student (02:51)
- We’re faced with real problems and Dr. Treat does a good job of giving us background on these problems and how they’re actually real-world problems that may have occurred, or something like them may have occurred. And then we get to sort of solve them in our own way. And in a way that we’re learning real-life situations, and in an online environment.
- Student (03:12)
- We actually get to see real life experiences in the Making Mkomazi. Instead of doing something computer-simulated, like this is never going to happen, this actually did happen and this might happen again because more and more game reserves are being built to save the endangered animals. You might have to make this decision someday and you’re already getting to know why and how you’re making this decision. And you’re also giving the reasons and the response at the end, so you can actually reflect on why you made the decision instead of just randomly guessing.
- Dr. Alena Treat (03:45)
- As they get more and more advanced, I’m becoming less and less of a guide. What I mean by that is my guidance is coming more transparently, through the reflections, through the responses to their submissions. So it’s sort of like the focus is not on me; the focus is completely on their experience, and it’s individualized. No two kids get the same response. Plus the fact that it’s so complex, when they make a decision, they see a different result in that world. So one student will make one decision, and another student will make another decision, and then they’ll be able to see the impact. And in our discussions, we’ll talk about the various impacts of their decisions.
- Student (04:33)
- I actually learned from this computer world instead of someone actually teaching me, I get to learn it by myself. I get to see what decisions I made and why what happens after I make the decision. So the other classes, they tell you what other people did and what other people. You can actually see this as if you’re the one who’s doing it.
- Student (04:50)
- Feedback can come from like other people in that, in the Quest Atlantis because they can actually be able to revise quests and tell you what you’ve done wrong. And so when they give you back your paragraph or whatever you’ve written, they just say, "I think you need to work a little more on this." And sometimes Ms. Treat can do it too.
- Dr. Alena Treat (05:07)
- When I learn about their different abilities and disabilities and preferences, what they like and what they don’t like, I can then find work that’s even more in line with what their needs are. So if they need to, if they feel like they’d want to luminate in a social commitment, I can find something that’s right up their interests, and that would keep them motivated, and keep them engaged, which is pretty awesome.