How do we help young students to interact with Israel in a way that allows them to connect with a topic that often feels distant, irrelevant and separate from their lives?
We are beginning a pilot project that uses the Second Life platform to "gamify" Israel education in the complementary school. BJE is working with Johanna Sohn, the Education Director at Adat Ari El congregation, Los Angeles and Simnik to create a 3 dimensional virtual build and curriculum that will provide 5th graders with interactions with Israeli history and culture that will be both immersive and engaging. As these students take on avatars and work their way through the world we are building for them, they will have fun while solving problems that help them to connect with Israel. Using the basic principles behind quests and discovery-based inquiry, we hope to create a robust blended experience that combines classroom instruction with a rich 3D virtual environment in which students interact with content and with each other. As they "level up", the students will also be learning.
I have been looking at the use of MUVEs (Multi User Virtual Environments) in education for a few years and have come to understand that these tools are exactly that- tools. As with every other technology we use (be it a smart board, a pencil or a virtual environment) our job as educators is facilitate a learning experience that results in both the learner knowing more and feeling more connected to the content. Learning has to be grounded in experience and tools like this one create experiences for the learner.
I welcome hearing from my colleagues about the opportunities and challenges of moving into immersive virtual environments. We are just in the early planning stages and I look forward to sharing more about how this experiment progresses.