Affordances of Virtual Worlds for Teaching and Learning

I had trouble starting this post because I was supposed to think about a topic in a field of my expertise and how affordances of virtual worlds could enhance learning. I kept trying to find a way in which virtual worlds could help the teaching of Spanish, not Spanish as a second language but the kind of skills that I develop in my students: oral and written proficiency, persuasive speech and literature analysis. I couldn't come-up with anything. I kept repeating in my mind the following terms and ideas: representational fidelity, learner-computer interaction, immediacy of control, immediacy of discourse, social presence, enhanced spatial knowledge representation, experiential learning, increased motivation/engagement, contextualization of learning, richer/more effective collaborative learning, exploring/constructing/manipulating virtual objects, structures and metaphorical representation of ideas. Eventually I came up with the idea of having them be reporters of these virtual worlds, the possibility of them living an experience in a virtual world and writing about it. Then I question myself about why would that be better than asking them to go live an experience in the real world and I came up with the idea that in virtual worlds there is the possibility of living extreme situations, meeting people from far away places and experimenting safely. I was thinking how pilots and military train for the extreme situations they encounter and how for example war journalist could benefit from experimenting these worlds before they are confronted with the reality of war. I was also thinking about how social presence can be enhanced by three dimensionality and how could an interview be different if performed in a virtual environment. In my own experience having class at TC Educator Island was a far richer experience than connecting through videoconference. I couldn't think of ways of using augmented reality for language development. I will keep thinking about it.

In contrast to how hard it was and it is to think about ways of using virtual reality or augmented reality to enhance the teaching and learning of advanced language skills I had a great time thinking about ways of using those technologies to teach art history. In my school the department of language is joined to the art department and classes are designed to cover both topics: this makes our classes more dynamic. Virtual worlds could be used as a substitute of traveling in both time and space. Students could get closer to famous works of art, they could experience being inside important monuments and enhance their spatial knowledge representation. If I could take my students in virtual travel they could learn experientially, they could explore on their own and find the artifacts that call their attention, they could manipulate the objects and even create their own structures and works of art. I can imagine for example a quest where you have to find the works that don't belong to a specific time in history. Augmented reality could help a student that is exploring a museum or a historical site, they could obtain additional information or to see the object/place at a different time period, interact with historical characters, etc.