SPP - The Time Travellers
This brief summary focuses on the latter half of the year-long collaboration between South-East Grid for Learning (SEGfL) and the OU on Schome Park.
The main body of work occurred once a parcel of land was given over to a group called Time Travellers which mainly comprised individuals from SEGfL. Some of the initial activity was based around the collaborative building of a ‘centre’ to house existing steam engines and motor cars.
The group met at a regular time each week to talk about a number of different projects. It involved 6 schools, 9 adults and 26 students.
Evidence of Learning/Benefits
|1. One notable piece of work involved the production of a machinima film based on a true-life historical gothic murder mystery. The Time-travellers’ machinima wiki and forum provided an online space in which to discuss the ongoing project. The final movie can be viewed at - http://schomepark.blip.tv/file/971966/
This involved 12 individuals, most but not all, being from the SEGfL project.
2. Teachers TV filmed a programme on Schome Park (in two settings) one of which involved one of the schools involved in the SEGfL project. It was entitled ICT for the Non-Specialist - Virtual Worlds.
There have been clear social benefits for students in terms of building confidence and enhancing self-esteem. Development of IT-based skills has also been relatively easy to demonstrate because of involvement in projects and the legacy of built objects around the island. There is also evidence within the blogs and wikis of higher-order thinking and the ability to engage in mature debates around quite complex issues e.g. seeking permission for building and conforming, or not, to building regulations. One student was directly interviewed for the Teachers TV film entitled ‘This virtual life’.
An in-depth evaluation of one school’s involvement in this project can be viewed at - http://www.segfl.org.uk/microsites/library/1216053136/jh_eval.pdf
Getting full access to Second Life through LA and school firewalls proved challenging but was eventually overcome by some of the schools involved.
Requesting permission to build was a continual barrier to progress until a parcel of land was identified for Time Travellers.
As a general rule, staff and students involved in the project found the blogs, wikis and forums overwhelming. As a project leader I made it my responsibility to discover its hidden depths and after a large time-investment found that the system was very useful. However, for casual users the system was not fit for purpose because of the steep learning curve.
Some tension was caused by schools joining what was essentially a home-based project (which was understandable). Some existing students found it hard to accommodate the notion of school involvement. In some cases, staff and students in the SEGfL group were put off by negative comments from existing students and staff by comments like , ‘this isn’t the way we do things here’. This became less of an issue as time progressed.
Some students became quite unfocussed in their activities without direct teacher/adult involvement.
One significant issue concerns how to demonstrate long-term educational benefit. How do skills gained within an online virtual gaming environment transfer to real-life. What curriculum learning has taken place?
Key Lessons Learned
- How to open access to SL within schools
- The importance of regular meetings
- The need to design specific projects to keep students focussed
- The need to create online interactive social networking facilities that are fit for purpose
One last point. The project was a big success for SEGfL. It enabled us to secure funding for the next two years to explore educational uses of virtual worlds within the school curriculum. We are indebted to the OU for its invitation to be involved in the one year collaboration.
NB. Contrary to what the history might indicate, the original version of this was written by Ahoy SParker. PeterT just cut and pasted it in here from the original wordprocessed version.