virtual worlds are a fairly economical ed tool – even to learn programming

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power teacher Kate is at it again with her awesome Aussie students exploring biology by using Sim-on-a-Stick

the image on the left shows a student making larger-than-avatar images of the human body. even visualisation of 2D elements like these changes the perspective from that of an image in a book. you can go further and build some parts of the body (i believe her students did the stomach a while back – hmm, you could add a burrito submarine to ride around in and you’d have my stomach after lunch today!) =D

her use of SoaS made me change my view on OpenSim and see it as a modern notebook in some regards. because you can illustrate concepts, like plant cells versus animal cells, it becomes an effective way of “taking notes”

in creating a plant cell, you do something similar to drawing one out on paper. creating one in 3D accesses different neural pathways and reinforces the topic in ways not possible otherwise. the spatial aspect of creating in a 3D space is more deeply engaging than a 2D drawing – it’s not better than drawing it out, just different (like listening to something versus watching a video)

as such, OpenSim is fairly accessible and budget friendly. this is a relative observation but it is certainly less expensive than some educational technology trends out there (interactive white boards, etc)

a very cool, but expensive technology are robots such as Lego Mindstorms – an elementary base set can cost $279. it is incredibly cool and from it you can make a Wind Turbine, Solar Station, BoogieBot, Drag Racing, Tractor Pull, and more

Mindstorms use a C-based programming language called ROBOTC so students are exposed both to building activities and programming. real-world building accesses yet different neural pathways and is a deeply immersive educational activity

but . . . Mindstorms are expensive for both schools and home use

3D virtual worlds to the rescue!

learning how to program by making robots is obviously very friggin’ cool (n3rd al3rt!) and you can do it even without real robots (not as cool, but you can do all your world domination planning). there are utilitarian looking virtual obstacle courses like the image on the right

but there are some pretty amazing 3D virtual worlds that are probably the next best thing to real robots and, in some ways, maybe cooler since they can incorporate fantasy like the images below

this is from Robots to the Rescue, a reasonably priced subscription offering geared towards educational use in the classroom using ROBOTC in excellent virtual world settings

you can even get a free license to check it out until february 28th, 2013 here


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written by Ener Hax

December 11th, 2012 at 9:53 am

posted in virtual worlds

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