1. Pennsylvania delegates meeting with King George.
2. Professor as George Washington looking at Independance Hall.
3. Professor as George Washing preparing for a lecture.
Revolutionary Teaching Methods
Revolutionary Teaching Methods
Ian Chambers uses Second Life to bring the classroom into the virtual world
by Lisa Heer
We live in an evolving technological world—new gadgets are popping up all the time allowing us to connect with others and share our experiences in new ways. One way that the University of Idaho has integrated new technology into education is by taking the classroom to the virtual level through a program called Second Life.
One professor who is using the program is Dr. Ian Chambers, who teaches his History 412 Revolutionary and Early America class. Along with Brian Cleveley of Art and Architecture, Chambers has created a virtual colonial Philadelphia, where his students are able to take on the roles of characters relevant to the time period. On the first day, the students assumed the roles of members of the thirteen colonies who rebelled against England.
“There was a learning curve, although it was not too steep,” said Chambers. “To encourage the students I began with a simple lecture where they would sit and watch a power point and listen to my lecture, with the difference being that they were avatars dressed in eighteenth century costume.”
Once the students became accustomed the virtual classroom, he was able to move into more interactive areas.
“We then moved into discussion, specifically [about] the Declaration of Independence in a replica assembly room in Independence Hall. Students have now met as groups separately in differing buildings to discuss their state’s stance on the important aspect of the American Constitution before meeting to discuss, debate, and vote on the document,” he said.
Chambers said that preparing for teaching a class through Second Life is practically identical to preparing for a regular class, with perhaps an additional 5-10 minutes to transfer PowerPoint or video into the virtual world. The majority of his class is still taught in person, but they try to meet in the virtual world once a week. His students seem to gain additional benefit from the virtual learning method.
“By giving a student a chance not only to discuss such foundational documents such as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, but to actually take on the persona of individual delegates to the discussions, the students are able to have a more engaged experience,” said Chambers.
One of his personal goals for the class is “to allow the students to see the founding documents as more than simply historic pieces of paper . . . as items that were brought to life by an individual.”
Second Life is an extraordinary way for him to convey that, and bring history “to life.” Chambers says that he plans to expand his use of Second Life to other history classes he teaches, hoping to work on a project to create a 15 site simulation that could be used in introductory level classes.
With further research into the capacities of virtual teaching, Second Life could be applied to the broader University community.
“Although this is an on-line section of the class, we still have face-to-face time, with the added factor of an immersion experience,” said Chambers, referring to interaction of student and professor avatars. “Additionally, anecdotal evidence from some students has suggested that the nervousness they feel talking out loud in classroom discussions disappears when they are in the virtual world—factors which make virtual worlds a positive step not only for History but for many other disciplines across campus.”