Professional development IN virtual worlds

I have been working with my next cohorts of teachers in professional development for engaging in the virtual world Quest Atlantis (QA). I have separate classes running for Asia-Pacific, Americas and Europe. It is a brief 4 week workshop held inworld and over skype (for VOIP). Interestingly as QA is a fully moderated and supervised space the audio components of the world, too difficult to moderate/review, have been disabled. So we need to use Skype to be able to talk while engaging in the world.

I have been trying to ensure that our training uses the facilities of the virtual world and engages teachers in world, both in the asynchronous questing work they do for homework and in the real time gatherings we hold each week. We have to discuss aspects of the virtual world at all levels; procedural, conceptual and critical. Sometimes I worry that our inworld use is more “talking head” than I would prefer but the program is so rich and multi-faceted we need to spend time together seeing, using and imagining use of the tools available. I have had experiences myself in Second Life where my avatar sat lifeless in a theater peering at an immobile presenter avatar listening to a 50 minute audio stream, questioning why wasn’t this a podcast? What did I gain by taking on the overheads that logging in to the virtual word involved? I was left wondering if a lecture was a pedagogy we should ever see in virtual world learning. With this heightened sense I have reflected on my own coaching strategies for QA and have been working to more and more use the virtual world attributes and the social context available to shape the activities we engage in.

I would love to collect examples of when this inworld learning totally zings. What are your experiences of really leveraging the affordances of these worlds as professional learning environments?

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