I know that it sounds like a bold statement, but I believe that we just made history. This past week, Simnik.com, in collaboration with the BJELA and Congregation Adat Ari El, launched Virtual Israel: Neve Tzedek - an Israel curriculum that is delivered using a 3D immersive online environment.
While there have been other simulations used in Jewish schools, I believe that this curriculum is groundbreaking because:
1. It conforms with best practice in the use of MUVE for education. Each virtual world session is bookended with an introduction and an opportunity for reflection/discussion.
2. Virtual world experiences have a parallel in the real world classroom. For example, as the students search for the virtual Seven Species, they learn the brachot and taste the real thing in class.
3. Gaming elements and collaborative learning have been incorporated into the virtual environment. Each avatar has its own stats bar reflecting level, experience, and money.
In addition to gaining points, students are awarded objects and special clothing as they progress through the simulation.
The fifth grade students who participated in the first days of this pilot gave it rave reviews. They reported that time flew as they completed the initial tasks of immigration to Palestine in 1912 - finding food, water, clothing, and shelter.
I want to congratulate Phil Liff-Grief and Johanna Sohn for their vision and support in bringing this virtual world curriculum to Adat Ari El. I want to thank Gabe and Patrick, my Simnik.com partners for helping me to realize this dream.
What began as crude sketches and notes, developed into a beautiful online learning experience that, I hope, will reach and inspire thousands of students over time.
Once you go 3D, there is no going back!