Multiverse Dragon Masters for Elementary Reading Literacy
Designing Online Learning Environments
Professor Mark Lewis
Empire State College
April 28, 2017
Multiverse Dragon Masters for Elementary Reading Literacy
Multiverse Dragon Masters is based on backward design, simulation and game based curriculum with the goal of a virtually immersive learning environment. The target age groups with flexibility based on student level and ability, is 6-11 years olds (primary grades) for goal based learning. This can 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. My educational goals are to design projects and experiences that are personal and relevant to the learner (specifically my daughter whom is home instructed as well as my grandchildren when they reach the age where this content will be beneficial,) Another goal will be to produce quality presentations through the use of technology that can be shared with the online community.
Definitions and Mode of Delivery:
The definition of an online virtual world in its application for use with youth is a 3D multi-user environment with user-generated content. It is defined as an online, computer based and browser based virtual reality platform hosted on a “grid” or “hypergrid” which is a grid on a company owned or private server. I have chosen to use kitely.com as the development grid for this pilot project. Kitely.com requires anyone under the age of 13 to be supervised by a legal guardian while using their site and limited to areas rated “general”. Avatars who are 13 years of age to 18 years of age are limited to “moderate” rated worlds. These guides are based on self regulation and communal governance and peer reporting to enforce. (Kitely.com, 2017) The positive aspects are that educational exploration is part of the public platform and Kitely.com is open and accessible to family and youth participation.
Cost and Time Analysis:
A cost analysis was necessary when deciding upon the mode of curriculum delivery. Time considerations, were also part of this. Building environments, creating lessons, and implementation of lessons are a small part of the time investment concern. Getting absorbed into the entertainment aspect and the non-educational applications are cause for greater concern among educators. Education vs entertainment was identified in studies as one of these concerns in time application. Teachers commented that they themselves were distracted by the immersive environment and individualization options within the virtual world environment. The example given, spending hours adjusting their personal avatars appearance after school hours. The personalizeation features in virtual worlds my become more of a distraction to learners and ultimately outweigh the educational benefits. (p.12, Dickey 2010) In addition many educators feel the cost is insurmountable. “The cost of both procurement and maintenance of various sophisticated devices to create an immersive environment made mass use of this technology prohibitive.” (p. 30 , Merchant et al) With current access to the internet widespread and hyper-grids becoming greater in numbers this cost has been reduced. Both Merchant and Dickey cited cost and accessibility as major factors that limited access yet with the increase in widespread internet connectivity acknowledged that online virtual worlds are realistic options for educators. Though there is no financial outlay in the actual designing of the virtual world, the value of time equivalent is still beneficial in determining the feasibility of the project. Through readings concerning experts who have studied learning theories and practice in emerging technologies, I have explored situated cognition, simply stated that knowing is not able to be separated from doing. One theory I connected with is the concept and application of backwards design in education. In this lesson plan the goal will be to create a virtual world that will encourage reading in a game based environment. The result will be interpreted according to the interests of the student as they explore different areas and progress through the game, learn to correctly identify words, and read simple to more advanced sentences throughout the virtual experience.
Because this is an independent learning module, it is without the support and sometimes hindrances found in educational institutions. The online platform costs twenty dollars per month to host on the Kitely servers. Programming tools such as the game kit was an additional one time outlay of ten dollars. Other costs associated with the game is mesh designs that are not open source or cannot be found easily to cover all possibilities I budget in five dollars a month for these expenditures. With careful game design one can be sure to purchase exportable options or use only open source and plan to export the world onto their own private server, eliminating additional monthly costs. Non-monetary cost such as time investment I have determined to be Ten dollars and hour, the equivalent of my hourly wage when employed. The initial phase of development requires an average of two hours a day for one month to design the actual virtual world, learn and implement the technologies needed and create the curriculum with rewards, challenges and traps to encourage learning. The benefits of being able to design a personalized virtual world is well worth the initial and ongoing investment. I have begun this by purchasing this virtual real-estate on February 14, 2017. I initially purchased fifty dollars’ worth of KC credits to take advantage of a 33 percent savings. One dollar is equivalent to 300 KC. I have included as an attachment, screen captures of the design in progress and current account statements.
Overview of Pilot Preparation and Delivery:
For this pilot program the content will be delivered in a 30 minute walk through with 30 minutes of individual exploration. The walk through will consist of a presentation of the game features and curriculum and guidance through live in-world chat and voice. I have realized that some pre-course preparation is needed. An online resource to get started is, http://inspiration-island.com/educational-projects/virtual-world-survival-guide/getting-started-in-virtual-worlds/ and once set up, http://inspiration-island.com/educational-projects/virtual-world-survival-guide/ . It is a course designed by another virtual world group, however using the resources already available saves time and resources I can then apply to actual leaning content. This pilot project assumes the student already have access to and knowledge of virtual worlds, so anyone that participates will need to be coordinated with prior to help them quickly set this up. This preparation shouldn’t take more than 30 to 60 min depending upon the individual. An additional support platform will be in blogposts and videos on WoPoLi.com. An in-world link to this site will also be located in the Multiverse Dragon Masters great hall, the entry point to the virtual world. This will include video and pdf versions of some of the educational content that is found in the virtual world.
A parent teacher guide is also useful that will specifically address subject matter concerning virtual worlds and the educational use of them for children This includes rating guidelines for entertainment gaming. “EVERYONE 10+ Content is generally suitable for ages 10 and up. May contain more cartoon, fantasy or mild violence, mild language and/or minimal suggestive themes” Other parent guides resources will 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.
Supporting Research for Mode of Delivery:
As different learners operate at different levels sometimes outside of traditional guidelines, I have found benefits of designing flexible lesson plans that can be adjusted based on an understanding of the individual students’ needs rather than purely relying on age or grade based standards. The content of this learning module can be the instructors’ choice as singular or multiple lesson plans focused on any literacy and the appropriate creative based learning activities. “The assumption underlying the rapid rise in the use of desktop-based virtual reality technology in instruction is the unique affordances that it offers in enhancing learners’ cognitive skills” (Merchant et al (2014). With online virtual worlds customization the benefit exists to tailor the world for specific student needs. Research has shown that “…games sh0w higher learning gains than simulations…” (Merchant et al (2014).
In the paper, Purposes for literacy in children’s use of online virtual world Club Penguin, by Jackie Marsh, the author studied 26 children aged between 5 and 11 to determine the affects of online virtual worlds on literacy. The virtual world chosen was found to have a motivational and fun factor that encouraged reading and writing. Through this study the author was able to conclude that the use of virtual worlds is part of the digital generation. In spite of risks that may be involved it is likely that these platforms will continue to grow in popularity. Virtual worlds when guided by responsible adults can offer the opportunity for children to improve upon literacies. The author also concluded that interactions within virtual worlds were as beneficial as offline activities.
Subject content that can be used in this virtual platform will begin with reading and comprehension, but can expand to art, history, mathematics, music, science and technology, can be added to or subtracted from based upon the interests and level of the student. In addition to reading literacy, digital literacy is explored in technology concepts of game design as well as learning and using online tools to access the material. The whole concept of exploring digital media is intertwined in the overall teaching platform I will be creating. The digital content itself is available as open source and a primary resource can be found here, http://www.hypergridbusiness.com/2017/03/virtual-world-educational-content-shop-launches-at-osgrid/ .
As my daughter gets older, an online journal through Google Docs will be incorporated to record learning and personal reflection. This will also promote the next phase of literacy; writing. For younger students parent participation is essential in the virtual world environment to introduce them to the technology they will be using and supervise them in a public forum environment.
Overcoming Challenges in Content Delivery:
Privacy and security controls, avatar ratings and restrictions, virtual world ratings, controls, and restrictions and private spaces are all options currently offered in the virtual environment. You can restrict your communications from being seen or heard outside your world or limit it to a certain distance inside your world. With so many intricacies in privacy settings and allowances it is very easy for new participants in the technology to be caught off guard and not realize the lack of privacy in this public space. Even when you are on an island alone or with a friend, if you do not own the island or if you are not aware of all the ways to limit and block who sees your information, it is always best to assume you are always being watched either by the island owner or grid administrators. It is essential for educators to learn the technology associated with any platform they use and read the privacy policies. Using Kitely.com as an example, one sentence alone describes the largest security threat to privacy without clearing explaining options you could or should use to protect yourself “Some of your personal identification information may be shared with other users when you interact with them or their proxies using our service.” (Kitely Privacy, 2013, par. 6)
The terms of service gives a little more information concerning how the world manager can control privacy in the world they manage.
“Representations and Warranties of World Managers
A World Manager is a User who has created a Virtual World.
Each World Manager is responsible for managing his or her Virtual Worlds, and will be put in charge of controlling the activity of the Users who visit her or his Virtual Worlds (“Your Visitors“).
A World Manager may designate access restrictions, in order to prevent certain Users from entering or being a part of his or her Virtual Worlds in any way (“Access Restrictions“). You hereby undertake that you shall proactively institute such Access Restrictions to comply with all applicable laws and prevent violations of these Terms by Your Visitors.” (Kitely terms of service, 2015, para 5).
According to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), educators, “will have to take some steps to safeguard the identities of any students they bring into a virtual world. Also, while there are likely to be more than one way to be FERPA-compliant, the easiest way is to host your own private grid (or rent private grid space from a hosting service provider) and further, set-up the permissions on the grid to only allow faculty-level avatars to hypergrid jump in or out of the grid (and to prohibit non student avatars from hypergrid jumping into the grid).” (Educator Commons, 2017)
In addition the lack of technology skills has been identified as a primary barrier. The research has shown “… a significant gap between teachers’ perceptions of the importance of integrating technology and their classroom use of these skills.” (p. 111, Carver, 2016) Though teachers feel technology is important they do not teach or use technology in the classroom. 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 Rousou). Pre-lesson preparation and one on one instruction will overcome most of these challenges.
Once the world is designed it is possible to 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. In addition, when encouraging the access on an open platform, accessibility may be an issue for some. Accessibility options for disabilities are not built into the virtual world platform that I will be using, so in this regards there may be barriers to accessibility. This curriculum will only be used by parents who are acquainted with and comfortable in the virtual world platform when using it in conjunction with their own children. Because of this accessibility is not a concern though still worth exploring. Though accessibility tools are not built into this technology platform, a number of tools that can be used for accessibility are.
Addressing Accessibility Concerns:
Virtual worlds require a level of technological comfort and ability. Although I hope to design a general curriculum that others can use, the technology is restricted by what it is designed to do. The format I have chosen uses chat pods for social interaction and the programs use “notecards” and other text based communications. However it also has voice enabled functions for real time communications. “Communication in virtual world can take both verbal and nonverbal forms.” (p. 36, Hew and Cheung, 2010) Voice, avatar animations and chat are the primary forms of communication live in world, while signs, note cards, video, music, websites and links, animations and visual display of objects are communications used on an individual basis not related to live communication. In this example accessibility for the visually impaired will be in screen enlargers and in the pre-designed sizing options within the virtual world environment. Hearing impaired, again would be technological tools to increase volume and turn off back ground noises such as ambient sound effects within the tools developed on the platform. As an educator, creating a help sheet to assist learners in finding and setting these controls would 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, again sites like YouTube had accessibility built in with captioning and other options available. Eventually I may want to move to a stand-alone platform such as can be found at www.Simonastick.com.
Lesson Content Delivery:
Through the first phase of this lesson plan students will be able to explore the island, collect items for points, and take quizzes that will be rewarded for correct answers. Points will be subtracted to discourage guessing. Though guessing is an appropriate learning technique for children, I have identified my student as relying on it too often when using educationally designed games that reward for the correct answers but have no negative impact when wrong answers are chosen, This makes it very easy to randomly click through answers until the right ones are arrived at by chance in order to progress through the game. By allowing for smaller penalties in points and a larger reward, the student can still progress by guessing, however the progression will be much slower if doing so without completing the required reading. Story boards will allow the student to be introduced to an underlying story plot. Students will also be able to create their own story line using screen shots, adding text and creating their own story boards that can be placed in world.
If a student is progressing too slowly due to the level or vocabulary it can be easily adjusted and new quiz boards and story boards put in place. This is important as my daughter struggles in reading below her grade level. This will allow for curriculum and word choice designed at a lower comprehension level with age appropriate content instead of relying on curriculum and story books designed with younger children in mind. I can design engaging content with beginner words. This can also be used to put in signboards that will allow for scavenger hunts to find and collect items that the student can later use in the game.
As students advance another phase can be developed to engage them in the actual designing of their own virtual space. This will be a long range personal goal for the student that is easily achievable at any level and incorporated into an additional motivational reward. Saving game images that they can be published in a PDF format is also a great way to record progress and build their own story line as they advance through the virtual world. Especially since the world is always evolving, this additional project will encourage both creativity and literacy. Depending on the student’s level and time, they can work with digital tools and digital art to edit and add text, truly creating a “personalized story” based upon their virtual world experience. Students and parents accessing the lesson plan online, again with parent supervision, will find resources and information will be presented on my current website Wopoli.com or Facebook page.
Backwards planning is goal driven learning essentially project based learning where you have a final goal in mind. In backwards planning you start with the end result, the goal, and then explain to the student the steps they need to take to achieve this goal. This is beneficial because it is not a monotonous timeline of spelling words, vocabulary, or random writing prompts, presented in a disconnected format which can seem overwhelming and irrelevant to some students. Instead it can be used as a motivational tool that will bring them a personal sense of achievement and deeper understanding of the value of knowledge in accomplishing a goal. In the virtual world environment small goals and prompts can lead to achieving the larger goals in a step by step progression through the virtual world. Knowing they will be able to create their own story, students will be excited to explore and find images in world that inspire their own story line to create. With so many potential angles in a 3D environment with multiple and ever evolving themes, no two stories will ever be the same.
Cognitive learning that is interdisciplinary and project based can also enhance the engagement of students. In addition in teaching specific concepts I am able to specifically reinforce the cultural, social, and spiritual goals I have for my student. Beyond simply teaching a subject, through immersion experiences applicable concepts are learned that deepen understanding. In the platform I have chosen I can use multiple subjects in an interdisciplinary approach so that the student is immersed in a specific concepts and goals within the lesson plan. Students experience situated learning when they learn through actual application of skills to achieve the set goals. Game design requires pre-planning. It is more than just word recognition; it also requires knowing the techniques needed to navigate inside the world. research overwhelmingly supports the benefits of learning in immersive virtual worlds for students of all ages. “The contemporary notion of learning environments recognizes that meaningful, active learning takes place in complex, multi-model environments in which the learner plays an active role in constructing knowledge” (p. 2, Dickey, 2010). Research shows that 3d virtual worlds “…supported children’s exploration of identity, community and personal representation.” (p. 3 Dickey, 2010) In addition, though not fully imersive compared to virtual reality rooms and glasses, “… desktop-based 3D virtual environments … (are) shown to enhance learners’ engagement” (Merchant 2014). “Research has indicated that technology can increase student motivation, attitude, engagement and self-confidence, while improving organization and study skills.” (p. 110, Carver, 2016)
Evaluating learning outcomes:
The writing of the story line incorporates English skills, sentence structure, and vocabulary. Again this can be a participatory event with open ended prompts and through offline activities, such as adding text and narrating screen shots of the virtual world, and incorporates the child’s own imagination. As the story progresses, through student teacher interaction, the student can help create the resulting story boards that continue the game. The completion of this goal measures the success of the pilot for more advanced students. The end result can be shared either in print or electronic means. The reason project based learning is effective in the cognitive modeling process is that the learner is able to see the end goal and then through the process of and steps presented in order to create the project, the student comes to a cognitive understanding of how the knowledge learned is applied in a real world scenario. The reason this works is because each project can be tailored to the learning level of the audience in order to teach the learning standards required for their level. For example in the state of Maine no specific standards exist except that subjects must include English, language arts, math, science, social studies, physical education, health education, library skills, fine arts, Maine studies (for one year between 6th and 12th grade) and computer proficiency (for one year between 7th and 12th grade). With no standards of achievement the homeschooling parent must ensure that the goals they have for their child are met through the homeschooling program. Interdisciplinary and project based learning is a proficient way to teach multiple disciplines at once and build a portfolio to assess progression over time.
Other means of evaluation will be in the collection of points, earned for correct quiz answers, prizes and progression through different levels of the game once designed. Future exploration of programs will allow for quizzes to be saved or even emailed to the instructor.
Technology and tools used:
- Virtual World platform
- PDF Slideshow in-world presenter boards
- Story boards in-world
- Quiz boards in-world
- Sign posts in-world
- Interactive objects that will display written text required to be read for game progression
- Students will learn about word recognition.
- Number recognition in word form
- Color recognition in word form
- Shape recognition in word form
- Students will learn technology tools to interact in the virtual world environment.
- Avatar controls
- Screen capture controls for story board projects
- Students will learn to recognize sentence structure.
- Read simple sentences for quiz completion
- Write simple sentences for story book creation
- Students will learn to use these in their own writing activities.
- Students will learn to document their progress through storybook creation or written journals.
Proven understanding for assessment: (Knowledge Level and Application Level)
- Students will read online prompts, learning vocabulary and sentence structure.
- Students will write vocabulary, correctly spelled, and match them to their meanings.
- Students will practice story creation through screen shots in world and the opportunity to use the vocabulary learned to narrate their own story.
- Students will document their learning experience in a journal.
- Students will be able to discuss content ideas and design their own virtual space in world.
- Students will create a picture book about their virtual adventure.
Methods of evaluation:
- Self-evaluation: Ask the student to self-evaluate: Was the project to big, to hard? Was it to small, to easy? What did you enjoy? What steps were you challenged by? What would you do again? What would you do differently?
- Observational evaluation: Mentor, parent or teacher led observation based on the outcome criteria such as progressing through the game with higher points and access to levels of the virtual world.
- Badging could be awarded by the instructor for project completion to be displayed in-world or printed in PDF form. Highest scores could also be displayed in-world.
- Graded evaluation: spelling and vocabulary tests, journal participation, and participation in discussions. Final project evaluations of story book creation or virtual space designs
- Peer Evaluation: Based on the goals outcome and/or set feedback guidelines. Peer badges can be awarded for specific goals if done with a larger group of peers through the voting process, an example of this in the best final project.
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