To get the students to explore the worlds through their avatars, they complete quests and scavenger hunts. The program is paperless. If there is an assignment students need to turn in, they can put it on a note card in Second Life and drop it in a box, where it goes to the instructor's management system on the GeoWorld's Web site. Teachers can assess all of their student's assignments on the Web site.
The avatars' locations on the island are monitored, which lets the teacher see if students are exploring the worlds and will help the designers make the island more efficient.
The designers also are developing two artificial intelligence bots that will help students answer questions and help them with the scavenger hunts. The bots will be able to learn from each question they are asked and will recognize if a similar question is repeated. Totten said the bots will look like young female geologists and serve as science role models for young women.
"We talked about having Darwin, but we decided that was something we as scientists would want to see, not high school kids," Totten said.
Totten has presented the work at Tulane University, the International Conference on Digital Game and Intelligent Toy Enhanced Learning, and the Education Grantmakers Conference.
She said that Second Life is being used to teach other science disciplines like genetics, by using virtual fruit flies, and chemistry, by showing lab experiments such as the Redi Experiment that are not easily done in the high school classroom.
Second Life has a special role to teach geology to students on the Great Plains, Totten said.
"Living in the Midwest, we don't have a lot of geologic structures that show any kind of deformation," she said. "You have two-dimensional images online, but Second Life is a great option."
|Contact: Iris Totten|
Kansas State University