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Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Bio Med and Functional Skills in the virtual world

Following my presentation at the College HE day on the use of virtual worlds I have subsequently received two project requests, the first was from our Bio Med team who asked would it be possible to have virtual lab that students could use to become familiar with equipment and use. So first things first I went about setting up a sky platform and installed a build; I actually found this one at OpenSimCity, and after making a few texture changes fig 1.

Fige 1

I met with a couple of team members, where I am pleased to say they agreed and we talked about some details of use and functionality.

The second request came from Functional Skills math’s, and just like with Bio Med, my approach basically was, can we get the virtual world to do something for us that the vle does not, and of course my answer to that is provide a simulated life experience, it really is important I think not to simply reproduce vle or documented content and drop it into a virtual world. And so my plan is to present students and staff with an urban set of life experiences, and as a starting point using a cafĂ© facility where students can order beverages and food, work out their payment and change, then sit down chat and enjoy the virtual ambience see fig 2.

Fig 2

This is the basic setup, and I have used an existing urban style sim that we already have running for this.  I will be getting my head down for some serious building and scripting in the days ahead on both projects, So if you are interested then please stay in touch and as always feel free to comment.

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Crypto Island

Fig 1
If you have read the previous pot then you will no doubt have realised that is referred to the considerable success of the Only Rocket Science project that ran in 2014-15, so did I run any project 2015-16, of course, I just hadn’t got around to blogging. The project for the last academic year was Crypto Island see fig 1; the clue is in the name, and the project was designed as a case study for me to investigate the use of serious games. As a pedagogical tool, the use of games, often popularised as gamification using points scores, badges and leader boards can bring a competitive enthusiasm and engagement to learning. While these interventions may prove effective early on, eventually participants can often come to feel punished or controlled by a system that relies completely on extrinsic rewards. Moving away from the view that a game is a tool used to support learning, and that instead the game is a medium through which one learns, presents the opportunity to consider the more intrinsically rewarding benefits of serious games, in essence that the game should not only be fun but produce emotional, behavioural and cognitive engagement, in a combination that is key to success (Iten., N.  & Petko, D. (2014). Learning with serious games: is fun playing the game a predictor of learning success? British Journal of Educational Technology doi:10.1 1 1 1/bjet.12226).

The sim transported students back to the period 1942 when Britain was at war, see fig 2.
Fig 2

fig 3
Students were tasked with learning about and then cracking encrypted messages. The game element I introduced was for them to decipher the code before damage from nightly air-raids see fig 3 reached a predetermined value. In the event that the target value was exceeded, then the encryption would become correspondingly more difficult.

fig 4
Students start by learning the fundamentals of encryption based situated in an old factory learning space, see fig 4. Where materials are presented on notecard dispenser boards in a low resource demanding format. The emphasis at this phase is for collaborative problem solving, making successive attempts at testing and evaluating their learning using in-world online cryptographic engines. Submission uses notecards that are returned using covert drop points, in this case public letter boxes. Once the practice sessions are complete, actual messages are delivered through telephones placed at various locations around the sim; in order to retrieve message students would have to wait for a telephone call (ring), at which point they simply touch on the telephone to receive a notecard; a particular feature I felt had the further effect of encouraging exploration and collaboration. Once the cyphers have been decoded, they are once again recorded on notecards and returned using the drop point network. When all messages have been correctly deciphered, air strikes will cease, effectively ending the game.



Friday, 15 July 2016

Only Rocket Science

This has been a really good year for virtual world projects. My student project for the academic year 2014-15 level4 and 5 was Rocket Science. The benefits to my students I feel are twofold: first, in using the medium, they acquired the knowledge, understanding and competence to complete the task; second, they experienced the advantages of collaborative, virtual, social, synchronous communication afforded by the visual learning styles of the 3D environment.


Virtual learning would be presented as a signposted, linear, walk-through workflow series of activities, from Orientation to Simulation, as shown below in Figure 1.
The main learning space comprised three tasks that cover Boost, Coast and Recovery phases of the rocket’s flight. The stages are presented as a signposted, linear, walk-through series of activities, carried out using similar workflows that are presented as:  introduction notecard boards, exercise boards, calculator boards and a drop box. Fig 2.
Fig 2
The final simulation stage draws the together the work of the previous stages. It presented the students with a full set of flight-profile calculations, dispensed once again from the notecard board. Upon completion, the notecard was saved and a copy dragged to the drop-box. Students could then check their results by launching a rocket: touching the green button at the centre of the launch console table produces a series of drop-down options prompting for input parameters, after which a soundscape introduces the countdown and launches the rocket.  Figure 3.
Fig 3
If you are interested in the reading more about this, my research proposal report has been published on the Compass website from the by the University of Greenwich. As an added incentive for me, I was given the Research Award for 2015-16 for research from Bromley College, very encouraging, there is also a YouTube if you would like to take a look, feedback welcome.
The project in fact received even more exposure when I was asked to deliver an impromptu presentation to the JISC ConnectMore16 conference in June.

I have since been receiving requests from within Bromley College for more virtual worlds specifically Functional Skills and Bio Medical science, so please stay in touch for developments.
Bye for now Skipper