THE USE OF IMMERSIVE WORLDS FOR LEARNING CONTEXTS – A CONNECTIVISM APPROACH
, T. Bettencourt2
1Instituto Superior Politécnico de Santarém - CIDTFF (PORTUGAL)
2Universidade de Aveiro - CIDTFF (PORTUGAL)
Our society is changing rapidly, as are all the citizens that are growing and living in this new, technology-enhanced age. Today’s society, and therefore today’s students, are interconnected, living in a digital age; in a “world of fast context-switching” (Brown, 2002); being able to multitask. With today’s networked society we can observe a new way of learning that is discovery based. The Web is now not only an informational and social resource, but also a learning tool that enables new ways of creating and sharing knowledge. Education cannot ignore those changes, cannot cling to the old habits and methods of teaching and learning from the last century. Consequently teachers are becoming challenged to develop new strategies in order to fulfill the needs and enhance the skills of their digital age students. We believe that we can only engage our students’ attention and motivation if we leverage the same tools. By getting to know their digital and immersive worlds; and becoming part of it.
To this end, we are conducting a research project with the aim of achieving better and more efficient ways to facilitate teaching and learning at a Higher level. We have chosen virtual worlds, with particular emphasis to the Second Life® (SL®) platform, to conduct this study. This particular environment has some interesting characteristics that drew our attention, it is immersive; it is a real world simulator; it is a social network; it allows real time communication, cooperation, collaboration and interaction; it is a safe and controlled environment. Through understanding the potential of these characteristics, we believe that immersive learning can be integrated in today’s pedagogical practices.
However, before we can apply and suggest best practices we need to get to know the SL® environment. We must characterize and understand how interactions and relationships are established between the users of this MUVE (Multi-User Virtual Environment). We have made preliminary observations of residents’ behavior at SL®, including some informal learning situations. Our analysis of those observations led strongly to the theory of Connectivism approach, which is defined as being the learning theory for digital age (Siemens, 2004). SL® as a learning platform reflects the assumptions of the Connectivisim theory in many ways. We know nowadays that information and knowledge are transitory, chaotic and unstable, there is an inherent need of a continuous learning (longlife learning). SL® enables a contact and connection with a diversity of opinions, nodes, links and specialized information sources. Because it is digital, virtual and immersive it allows that those information links to be more interactive, which enhances the learning and information sharing. On the other hand, motivation, feelings and sense of community belonging that are generated among SL® users helps to create, develop and maintain connections, and facilitate a process of continuous and natural learning. According to Siemens (2004), ability to “know more is more critical than what is currently known” and incidence (correct, up-to-date information and knowledge) is the purpose of learning contexts based in Connectivism.
This paper will discuss the use of immersive worlds in learning contexts and analyze them in terms of Connectivism theory. In our opinion, Connectivism can give us insights that allow us to understand and gather better ways to use MUVE´s to transform pedagogy into a new age.