Multiverse Dragon Masters for Elementary Reading Literacy:
Evaluation of the Pilot Course
Designing Online Learning Environments
Professor Mark Lewis
Empire State College
April 28, 2017
Multiverse Dragon Masters, Evaluation:
Multiverse Dragon Masters is a 3d simulation and game based curriculum based in a virtually immersive learning environment. The pilot was designed for age groups with flexibility based on student level and ability, between 6-11 years olds (primary grades) for goal based learning. In addition the primary evaluation form was goal based evaluation (McNamara, 2008). This could be expanded to 12-15 (secondary grades) with evolving curriculum and for advance application with design tools for in world storybook and literary project creation. The pilot was tested by my two daughters, one age 9, and the other an adult home educator of preschool children, as well as two college associates.
My educational goals were to design projects and experiences that are personal and relevant to the learner. My 9 year old daughter whom is home instructed, is below her reading level for her age. The design of this pilot was with her special needs in mind, as well as to produce quality presentations through the use of technology that can be shared with the online community.
On both the website and in the virtual world graphics and text combine to increase the impact on learning. Using this principle the fact that the animation in virtual worlds is more engaging to children in an e-learning environment that a static text based or even interactive chat based website is supported(Clark & Mayer, 2016, p. 71) This is also based on the arousal that emotional attachment promotes learning. The virtual world environment allows for both synchronous and asynchronous learning, where the student can interact with the lesson plan independently or with the instructor, parent and/or other participants. One college associate commented that the title of “Multiverse Dragon Masters” created psychological engagement even before beginning the pilot project.
The supporting website also give additional asynchronous learning opportunities and lesson plan preparation. It allows for the application of the embodiment principle because the avatar programming mimics human gestures in line with live voice interactions, increasing stimulation contributing to learning (Clark & Mayer, 2016, p. 192). Virtual worlds can be individually designed to better adhere to the concurrency principle by avoiding streaming audio, music and ambient noises and using sounds only when beneficial for motivational engagement with the learning content. The individual avatar controls also allow for the content user to adjust sounds, movements and other features to align with personal preferences. In this the user can choose to eliminate ambient noise, sound effects, streaming music, etc. In a virtual world the importance of immersion is highlighted. It is a very specific platform with many possibilities but may not be appropriate for all learners. Deciding on an appropriate audience and content rating will also be essential in its development.
The redundancy principle is supported with this reduction in unnecessary audio when using visual text as the audio may reduce the knowledge absorbed from the lesson (Clark & Mayer, 2016, p. 139). Choosing only beneficial graphics and limiting the over use of graphic, as well as keeping word choice simple and concise are all conducive to learning according to the coherence principle (Clark & Mayer, 2016, p. 165) I can apply the contiguity principle in the virtual world environment by creating corresponding printed words with graphics or slide show with images and words, similar to an online storyboard. Points, tokes, prizes and awards through exploration, games and quizzes will instructors and parent gauge the success of the leaning platform.
Through my research one concern was that the personalizeation features in virtual worlds my become more of a distraction to learners and ultimately outweigh the educational benefits. (p.12, Dickey 2010) Allowing the 9 year old participant to make choices based upon limited selection, rather than teaching the technology tools of actual avatar design, I found that the pilot student was not distracted in the same way described by teachers in prior studies. In addition Personalization Principle, points out the benefits of these features in motivating students (Clark and Mayer, 2016). My adult daughter did report spending time working on her avatar and struggling with the technology aspect, in other words, she wanted to completely personalize her avatar but did not have the time to learn the technology. I ended up spending a few hours with her just to help her get her avatars appearance “just right”. With the two other college associates, I provided a ready made avatar and offered the options to adjust. I found with an avatar that was not “their own” they did not use the personalization features and simply continues with the lesson plan as laid out in the virtual world.
In this lesson plan the goal was to create a virtual world that encouraged reading in a game based environment. While working one on one with the 9 year old student she was motivated to read the story boards and read the quizzes for the opportunity to earn items she could then create her own story book scenes with. She enjoyed the idea of taking pictures of her creations with her own avatar as the main character. The one on one interaction in an online virtual world enhanced her motivation and interests in participating in reading chat and other required readings within the virtual platform in order to participate as she explored different areas and progressed through the game, learning to correctly identify words, and read simple to more advanced sentences throughout the virtual experience. The student was very interested in earning her own space to design in the virtual world, and kept asking me when I would be putting in more rewards, challenges and traps.
For this pilot program I planned a 30 minute walk through with 30 minutes of individual exploration. I had intended this to simulate the one on one goal of instruction. The college associate participants and myself were unable to coordinate schedules to meet online for this walk through. This impacted and lessened the affect of the pilot. Though I offered resources to aid in understanding the technology platform, time was a barrier and these resources were not utilized due to the learners time constraints. Instead I relied on the website resource and written support as an overall presentation of the game features and curriculum.
My adult daughter was able to meet with me one on one and this made her transition to a new technology format easier, thus enabling individual exploration. I will be creating an individualized pdf with visual screen shots as an improvement to the course as well as more training resources for new avatars within the virtual world. This will include a virtual orientation center that will teach movement controls and other aspects of the technology needed for success.
A parent teacher guide is also useful and I was able to implement many of these concepts into the starting point in the virtual world. Having these resources in world is essential and I will be developing PDFs of the same resources when applicable that specifically address subject matter concerning virtual worlds and the educational use of them for children on the companion website. Other parent guides resources include the user agreement both in world and on the website explaining the open access of virtual worlds and the responsibility of the parent and educator to supervise the sue of the virtual world. Help documentation such as how to create a child avatar and other useful tips and directions will also be available.
The subject content used in this virtual pilot began with reading and comprehension. In addition to reading literacy, digital literacy is also expanded though not a direct part of the lesson plan. Through observation I have seen improvement in the 9 year old student with technology use and in vocabulary recognition. The lack of technology skills with this new platform did surface as a barrier more so with the adult learners that the child learner in this pilot course. This supports the research that compared to the often problematic adaptation to new technologies experience by adults, children “…easily adapt to graphic and conceptual abstraction…often have extensive experience in navigating 3D spaces and discovering and exercising interface affordances” (p. 1 Roussou).
I was able to design the world then export it to a private server which is ideal for individual families who need added security and have privacy and safety concerns with online access. I then started from scratch, rebuilding the aspects I found most useful and continue with my experimentation in the online version. I have been exploring Sim on a Stick or “Simonastic” and other ready made servers such as Dreamworld and virtual world venues that do not require internet connections. Eventually I may want to move to a stand-alone platform such as can be found at www.Simonastick.com . In the future I can design and distribute an Oar file for download as an open source educational resource.
As an educator, creating a help sheet to assist learners in finding and setting controls for security and privacy would also be appropriate. This can be done real-time through virtual sessions using video, audio, or text. It can be done through the creation of PDFs that also have accessibility features built in, or it can be done by instructional video. Though the videos I have on my companion website were not specific to the pilot in terms of orientation, the college associate participants commented that the found the videos which addressed the ethics of using online virtual worlds with youth, aided them in their comfort level in taking the pilot course.
Through the first phase of this lesson plan students were able to explore the island, collect items for points, and take quizzes that rewarded for correct answers. The collection of “butterflies” awarded tokens and were accompanied by a notecard that provided instructions. The college associate participants expressed confusion at how to collect these tokens even with the written instructions. My adult daughter and 9 year old daughter benefited from a one on one demonstration. This reinforces the benefit of video tutorials in future designs. Story boards introduced the students to an underlying story plot. Students were also be able to create their own story line using screen shots, adding text and future participants could creating their own story boards that could be placed in world. Though these instructions were in world the college associate participants responded better to the pdf outline on the accompanying website than the in world resources. This identified that though students may find the virtual world a sufficient platform for information, the website and more traditional forms of content delivery may be essential for parent and teacher support. Students and parents can access the lesson plan online, again with parent supervision, will find resources and information will be presented on my current website Wopoli.com and eventually the option of my Facebook page. Future exploration of programs will also allow for quizzes to be saved or even emailed to the instructor. According to quality standards creating additional resources such as a netiquette guide (Quality Matters, 2014).
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- Who hasn’t enjoyed sitting down with a good book in a sunny corner with a cat purring at your feet? In all honesty, a lot of people. That image is a stereo type concerning “sitting down with a good book” However when we think about literacy and learning the first thing that often comes to mind is reading. The next image is upright in a hard back chair, at a desk with pencil and paper writing words, checking off boxes, erasing numbers and of course, watching the clock waiting for something more engaging to come along when the bell rings. This is an image of what many consider “learning” With emerging technologies however learning can be speaking a foreign language with some one in Spain, or actively participating in a robotics experiment hundreds of miles away through remote programing and video. The simple act of writing a story can be adding images, sound, video, and animation to truly bring it to life and if desired share it with any audience one prefers. The first images I mentioned fills me with a bit of nostalgia and also a bit of grimace, but with emerging technologies, the potential is exciting and engaging. That is how learning should always be. With technology we can make that happen as parents and educators, for our children and even for our employees.
- I have been working with technologies of recent I never intended to work with, due to my own stereotype of these platforms. These are Kitely and Second Life. I considered these “adult” platforms for fantasy role play and in being as such assumed that these were inappropriate tools for creating serious and safe learning environments. I am more comfortable with Kitely after being in the environment for awhile and hope to learn more concerning how to create safe virtual areas as I am now learning how this platform can be used as a motivational learning tool for youth. I have not yet explored second life due to time constraints but may do so in the future.I still have my concerns, much like the same concerns I have for gaming scenarios that are based on role playing in an immersed environment. That concern is the possibility of becoming absorbed in the environment for long periods of time in nonproductive actions where the learning is not learning but simply participating in activities with no long term benefits.
- I am very pleased to be working with a group of colleagues during this exploration. It is helpful to see that others share my same concerns and also share the optimism of the potential these platforms might bring. When working with others we are more motivated to explore and less intimidated by our own thoughts and doubts. An example of this was my initial concern that I would be seen as technologically illiterate or antiquated just because I did not have prior experience in the use of avatars and gaming. It is intimidating to bring up security and ethical boundary concerns when most people one might find in these environments are there to enjoy the role play and fantasy aspect rather than seek to use the tool for educational means.
- Being dual motivated to create learning environments for children, my own included, educate and explore for home school support networks, and distance education for adults, I also have to consider the appropriate application for employee education through e-learning. The virtual avatar platform may be a possible solution to creating a culture within the organization, however it is unlikely to be embraced. To introduce this concept I can see Kitely being used as a “fun” gathering meeting place to educate the corporations distance educators and even at some point for managerial meetings. I do not see the platform being used at this time for initial employee training. It is something that may be more developed in the future as technology continues to advance. In as little as five years everything I am writing now may in fact be antiquated.
I work for a burgeoning global leader is business process outsourcing. Sykes Enterprises Inc. It is a company who, ahead of its time, has embraced the potential of virtual employees. From across the country it finds the best potential employees through the use of new media such as online and telephonic interviews. Through virtual online education using this new media it trains these potential employees for a career in business process outsourcing in a home office environment. It is challenging to say the least, both for those of us given the task to guide and support these potential employees and for the employees themselves. For the few that can adapt to this fast paced ever changing and growing environment, for those that can learn and embrace new literacies, they hold the potential of a challenging and rewarding career in the virtual realm.
I have spent my life learning and still have library fines to pay.
I speak daily on philosophy, sociology, and psychology; and if my cat could talk he would meow about psychiatry.
Yet. I will spend my life learning and no one will know what I know, but if they did, would they care for who I was, and will they care for my cat when I’m gone?
I’ve come to a fork in the road and I don’t know which way is the right way to go. I could go right but maybe right is wrong. Maybe the right road is the road that I’m on. Or maybe I should just turn around and the road that I’m on go back down. Or maybe the right road is left unless the left road is the road I just left. What if the left road is wrong? How many roads do I have left to go on? Before I come to the end maybe I should begin all over again. Then when I come to the fork in the road, stay there until I am old. Neither turning right nor left. Then I’ll neither be right nor wrong and there I’ll be left at the end of life’s song.
Stay the path. No matter how slow. If you turn from it you may never know where it may lead or how far you may go. So stay the path, no matter how slow.
Life is about failures, frustrations, and yet, through self-reflection we can come to understand where we have been in our struggle to grasp our own personal goals, that goal just out of reach, where we are now and were we are going.
I would like to start by letting you know something very important about myself. I Fail. I have such a long record of failures that each one could be a drop in the sea and fill all seven seas… Now that is something to relate to isn’t it? Not necessarily the failure part, but the sea. I live by the sea. I love the sea. I love sea stories. I love the romance of the sea.
I respect the sea. It is a fearsome and dangerous place after all. We as a culture, see equivalence of the sea to our emotions, a sea of emotions, like the emotions failure often brings, frustration, anxiety, anger… and we are a ship on that ocean, tossed by our emotions and yet we set a course for the winds of fortune… hmm sounds like a song I once heard… (Kansas)
However, though I love the ocean, I am not a sailor. I once tried to be a sailor. I failed. I almost killed my husband in the process too. When I and my husband first met we bought a sailboat. A twenty seven foot Catalina named Blue Moon. I barely knew how to swim, but sailing “builds character” and the best way to learn is just get on board and sail right? Isn’t that what we always tell ourselves when we are faced by a new challenge? We set ourselves a goal and think; the way to get this accomplished is to just do it. Eventually we will succeed.
Even the simple act of holding the rudder straight, headlong into the wind while my husband put on the jib sail was a task too much for me to handle. Actually it was a task to much for my husband to handle the resulting head injuries. As the boom continually swayed back and forth it caused him to repeatedly duck its turns in the wind, not always successfully. We went out on that boat almost every day for weeks that first summer. I never learned how to keep that boat headlong into the wind. To this day I cannot sail, but I did come up with a few boat jokes. What is a sailor’s favorite game?… Duck, Duck, Boom, and… what was written on the sailor’s tomb?… He went out with a boom. Alright , I am not a successful comedian either.
Luckily I didn’t kill my husband that summer. He still loves me even though I failed at sailing. It is important that we understand that instead of seeing failure as not acceptable we can reframe failure as “…a natural byproduct of a healthy process of experimentation and learning” (Cannon et el p. 18) I guess having a ship on the ocean just wasn’t in the winds for us. After all failure “leads individuals to question their taken-for-granted beliefs and assumptions and reframe their appreciation of the situation (Argyris & Schön, 1978; Ellis & Davidi, 2005)” (Fang He et el 16). From that experience I have an even greater treasure than that of being a sailor, I have a story, and
I still Love the ocean.
Cannon, Mark D., and Amy C. Edmondson. “Failing To Learn And Learning To Fail (Intelligently). How Great Organizations Put Failure To Work To Innovate And Improve.” Long Range Planning 38.Organizational Failure (2005): 299-319. ScienceDirect.
Fang, He, et al. “Why Do Some Entrepreneurs Fail Forward (While Others Do Not?).” International Council For Small Business. World Conference Proceedings (2012): 1-49. Entrepreneurial Studies Source.
Kansas. “Carry on my wayward son.” Sony Music Entertainment. 1976.
Throughout my varied careers and experiences is a thread of commonality, the desire to see others achieve their goals. This desire has manifested itself in my pursuit of leadership and teaching opportunities in my careers, personal pursuits, and in volunteer work. Removing barriers such as the limits poverty and distance is a focus of mine as these are personal barriers I have faced. Technology and distance learning as well as virtual employment have been beneficial in this. I myself have achieved my education only do to the availability of distance education. In addition, my virtual employment has overcome the barrier of limited local resources in employment.
Through self-reflection and analysis of my experiences key words that express my personal goals, how I wish to impact others are: to uplift and inspire, broaden horizons, deepen understanding, enlighten, strengthen and support, inform, increase awareness, protect human dignity, share beauty and joy, challenge people to think – to examine their beliefs and the effect these have on themselves and others, and to minister on a spiritual level of truth. This is likely why my future goals fall into a desire to teach and to express myself in creative fields through technology.