Virtual Environments and Mobile Learning

Virtual Environments

Virtual worlds, like Second Life (SL), are much more than games, although games do have pedagogical affordances. These environments are theoretically sound arenas for social learning: communication, collaboration, networking, communities of practice, informal learning, and building social relationships (Wankel et al., 2011). Environments like SL align with social constructivist, experiential learning, and problem based learning theories (Wankel et al., 2011). Users can role play, working out their identities and building relationships. Learners can visit locations that no longer exist, like ancient Rome, or would be too expensive or difficult to travel to in reality, like another continent, state, or museum. Unfortunately, since each location must be created by a user, the options are limited. Students learn about early American history in fourth and fifth grade (through the Constitution), yet I could not find a colonial or Revolutionary America island in the entirety of SL.

The activity for this unit was a toughie for me. I logged onto SL, and immediately realized it is NOT appropriate for elementary school – the avatars are WAY to grown up – the women are all very curvy with very tight clothes that are either too short or too low cut. Moving the avatar around was fairly easy, but deciding where to go out of the thousand of options was difficult. Then, realizing that many of the locations didn’t have much going on was a bit of a disappointment. Privacy and security are concerns, too. On the Spaceflight Museum island I happened to be exploring, I ran across three people who were having a live tutoring session. And I kept running into them, even though I tried to move around – they kept moving around. The experience was awkward for me, and I felt like I was intruding on something private. Now, imagine that those three adults were children or that my avatar was controlled by a child.

On a lighter note, at some point, when I was trying to change my avatar’s outfit, her hair disappeared and I could not figure out how to get it back!

Screenshot (15)
So that’s what I’d look like without hair…Is it weird that the flamingos are my favorite part?

So, while the ability to travel to distant, expensive places, and run intricate simulations are all positives, I will not be using virtual environments in my intervention groups. Most likely.

Mobile Learning

A topic that we have visited in so many classes is back again! This time, though I actually got to try creating something. More on that later. Like virtual worlds, mobile learning has the potential to be highly engaging, entertaining and connecting learners through the devices they already use so frequently (Stanaityte et al., 2013). Several concepts must be addressed for a successful implementation of mobile learning…

  • Ease of use – if the interface is too hard to figure out, no one will use it.
  • User perception of mobility end enjoyment – if they don’t feel they have control over time and location, or that the app is boring, no one will use it.
  • Self efficacy – ties in to perceived enjoyment, if the user doesn’t think they are able to reach the goals and objectives independently, usage decreases (mobile learning require autonomy!).
  • Compatibility – does the technology align with users’ values, needs, and previous experiences?

    In the zone. Image courtesy of Verizon Wireless.
  • Flow Theory – if activities engage users wholly, usage may increase (I think of Sheldon Cooper: “Can’t talk, in the zone.”)

I got to play around with some mobile app creators, and ended up choosing It was definitely easy to use, which was helpful given that lots of time should go into the ground work – analysis, planning, scripting/storyboarding, and sketching. Having a clear objective was a major help in keeping the app streamlined and clearing out redundant or off-topic content (Levert, 2006). I think my kiddos would get a kick out of mobile learning in school – being able to go around the room and use the technology they love so much. Unfortunately, the intervention room does not have any iPads, only my older Mac desktop. Yay.

Levert, G. (2006). Designing for mobile learning: Clark and Mayer’s principles applied. Retrieved from

Stanaityte, J., Washington, N., Wankel, L. A., & Blessinger, P. (2013). Increasing student engagement and retention using mobile applications : Smartphones, Skype and texting technologies. Bingley, U.K.: Emerald.

Wankel, C., & Hinrichs, R. J. (2011). Transforming virtual world learning. Bingley, U.K.: Emerald.


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