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Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Quest Atlantis, VWs & academic situational awareness

In a virtual world, science students can be scientists. In Quest Atlantis, students explore scientific problems or quests, so that – in addition to learning scientific content on quests – they find themselves in situations where they have to put that new knowledge to actual use. In other words they're being scientists, not just learning science. What a "science class"! Prof. Sasha Barab, one of the creators of the Quest Atlantis educational virtual world at the University of Indiana School of Education, calls this "transformational play," reports Cindy Richards at the MacArthur Foundation's "Spotlight on Digital Media and Learning." Maybe also transformational learning? [BTW, I love the term "situational awareness," feeling it has so many applications - social, academic, developmental (parenting) - online and offline. Online – like digital citizenship and media literacy – it's protective as well as promotive of academic success. Just as in Quest Atlantis, you learn what it's like actually to be a scientist or environmentalist, in social network sites you can learn what's it's like to be a good friend online and offline – what words, photo-tagging, or behavior has the potential to support or hurt others. We think about situational awareness a lot at our house. For example, some language that's common in Xbox Live is not at all appropriate in other situations, including at ice hockey practice! Developing the awareness that can make that distinction has a lot of athletic and social benefits!]

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