The Peterson Schools' Virtual Worlds Make Real World News

By David W. Deeds, Cuajimalpa High School

CUAJIMALPA CAMPUS  8/19/2012 -- You have heard of the Peterson Schools' Cuajimalpa, Tlalpan, Pedregal and Lomas campuses of course, but these are merely our real-world settings. We now have two cybercampuses, or virtual-world locations, one in Second Life and the other in Dreamland Metaverse. 

What is a cybercampus? The simplest explanation is: a school that exists in a computer. Second Life (http://secondlife.com/) has been around since 2003, with millions of users. Hundreds of educational institutions maintain a presence in this 3D virtual world, and now the Peterson Schools is one of them! Dreamland Metaverse (http://www.dreamlandmetaverse.com/) is an example of an organization using OpenSimulator (http://opensimulator.org/wiki/Main_Page), an open source version of Second Life.

Second Life’s cybercampus is being used for the Cuajimalpa High School’s Information Technology in a Global Society (ITGS) course that is taken by students in 11th grade. The Dreamland Metaverse cybercampus is being used for the Computer Workshop taken by Grade 10.

Confused? Don’t worry. There’ll be stories on the Peterson School's web page explaining the details of all this later. The point is to let you know that the Peterson Schools is attracting attention from organizations such as the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE). Read the linked posts and the embedded article and you’ll get an idea of what’s happening.

Back in August, when the Peterson Schools first started its Second Life cybercampus, the New Media Consortium (http://www.nmc.org/) published a post at the following URL:
http://www.nmc.org/news/welcome-colegios-peterson

The New Media Consortium is an international group of more than 250 colleges, universities and other educational organizations dedicated to the promotion of emerging educational technologies. Beyond being our “cyberlandlords,” they publish the annual “K-12 Horizon Report,” which predicts that game-based learning will be mainstream in schools as early as 2014. The report can be read at the following URL: http://www.nmc.org/publications/2012-horizon-report-k12

In September, Peterson’s Second Life cybercampus was mentioned in the “Virtual Outworlding” blog at: http://virtualoutworlding.blogspot.mx/2012/09/edu-mexican-high-school-conducts-class.html

This website is very popular among 21st century educators and has thousands of page views a year.

Best of all, as of this month, the Peterson Schools will be featured in a “Virtual Education Journal” article at: http://www.virtualeducationjournal.com/

The Virtual Education Journal is published by the Virtual Environments Special Interest Group of the ISTE (http://www.iste.org), which is a worldwide organization dedicated to promoting the implementation of technology in education.

So far, most of the attention has centered on the ITGS class and the Peterson Schools' Second Life cybercampus, but educators worldwide are also interested in what our grade 10 students are doing with OpenSimulator in their Computer Workshop. There will be some publicity about their work coming up soon. A perfect opportunity will be via the upcoming Global Education Conference: http://www.globaleducationconference.com/page/2012-conference

 

Below is the article that will appear in the next edition of Virtual Education Journal.

Mexican High School Gets Into 3D Virtual Worlds  - By David W. Deeds

As of August 2012, I began my stint as Technology Integration Coordinator for the Peterson Schools http://peterson.edu.mx). The private K-12 institution has over 2,000 students at four different campuses (Cuajimalpa, Lomas, Pedregal and Tlalpan) spread across Mexico City. I also teach Information Technology in a Global Society in the Diploma Program (the International Baccalaureate Organization – IBO, http://www.ibo.org – term for high school) . In addition, I’m running a grade 10 Computer Workshop. Yes, I’m rather busy.)

We have two overarching goals. Traditionally, Peterson Schools have juggled several sets of curriculum standards, e.g., the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico’s (UNAM, http://www.unam.mx) in addition to the IBO’s. One long-term objective is to transform the institution into a 100% IBO school. Our short-term priority is to implement “21st century learning,” which involves, among many other things, integrating technology into education and making learning more student-centric. We’ve had a 1:1 program in effect for over a year. All 9th-12th students and teachers at the Cuajimalpa campus, e.g., have MacBooks. Our biggest experiments with putting students in charge of their learning process to date are our ITGS and Computer Workshop classes. You guessed it . . . via 3D virtual worlds!

 

ITGS is a two-year course, in the IBO’s Group 3, aka the Individuals and Societies category, so it’s not a technology class per se. Instead, it focuses on the social, ethical, etc., issues involved with computer usage. I like to say that it’s more about the meatware than about the hardware/software, although it’s certainly geeky enough, since the study of IT Systems represents one of the three “strands,” or components. The other two? Social and Ethical Significance and Practical Applications. Students are expected to examine how technology is being used in . . . yes . . . our global society. They also must create a product or service, one that ideally helps others. What makes my approach so revolutionary…well, unusual, at least? The fact that our classes are held on our Second Life cybercampus!

  

Why have students sitting in a classroom reading about being members of a global society when they can actually BE members of a global society? My ITGS students will be operating via our Peterson Schools cybercampus on Teaching 6 (SLURL: http://slurl.com/secondlife/Teaching%206/180/132/23/). They’ll eventually be hosting students and teachers from around the (real) world, as well as making virtual field trips to meet others. If you’d like to participate, as visitors or hosts or both, please contact me via e-mail in Real Life (ddeeds@peterson.edu.mx) or IM me in Second Life (there I’m Deed Davids).

  

We’re up for just about anything. Some of the ideas we’ve come up with so far include language exchanges (our students can teach you Spanish, you can teach them another lingo), visits to the virtual versions of universities our kids want to attend when they graduate, etc. It doesn’t have to be anything specific, however…our students could get together just for the fun of it!

The product/service creation requirement typically involves . . . again . . . merely studying . . . in this case how businesses are run. My students will be really managing their own company, with both a virtual- and real-life component. For example, in the past I’ve had learners selling virtual t-shirts in Second Life, while simultaneously offering real-life versions via websites like CafePress or Zazzle. The big concept…a stroke of genius, I know… is to make the product/service purpose to train other students as well as teachers how to use Second Life in education. We’ll start with our Cuajimalpa campus…then we’ll expand to the other Peterson locations… and ultimately take on the entire (real, or is it virtual?) world!

 

Their first project entailed creating houses. No detailed specifications . . . the main goal was to simply get them using Second Life’s Computer-Aided Design tools. Well, it was also their first attempt at project management using the IBO’s Design Cycle (Investigate, Design, Plan, Create and Evaluate) as a guide. Results were mixed…students this age typically don’t like to stop and design or plan . . . they prefer to simply start banging on keyboards . . . they’ll get over it . . . practice makes perfect.

  

Their current project is to put on an art/photo exhibit. Some students are also working on digital music productions so we’ll also be streaming audio into Second Life via a ShoutCast server. What makes this endeavor particularly valuable (not to mention interesting!) is that it’s cross-curricular, i.e., subjects in addition to Technology are involved…as well as other students and teachers too. The students are in charge of everything, from creating and choosing the art/photos to designing and building the galleries.

BTW, if you’d like a Second Life cybercampus for your school but you’re afraid it’ll be too expensive, lease your property from the New Media Consortium (NMC, http://www.nmc.org) like we do. The NMC has been doing a great job of keeping Second Life affordable for educators! And you can’t beat the customer service! Contact Carol Pfeifer (carol@nmc.org) if you’re interested.

Second Life is only for students of age 16 and up, so for our 10th grade workshop we use an OpenSimulator virtual learning environment (we don’t use the word “game”!) instead. We lease our private sim from Dreamland Metaverse (http://www.dreamlandmetaverse.com). Again, affordable prices and great customer service! What I like most is my ability to manage my region via a user-friendly web interface. Contact Snoopy Pfeffer (snoopy.pfeffer@yahoo.com) if you’re interested.

The Computer Workshop only lasts a semester. It’s one of our “traditional UNAM courses,” although we’ve modified the usual topics to include . . . yes . . . virtual worlds. The story goes that once the learners saw what the 11th graders were doing, there was no way they were going to be left out of the 3D fun. My official version is that I had planned it all along. ;)

 The class so far is paralleling (is that a word?) with the ITGS class, but later the two courses will diverge so that the Computer Workshop students can do more programming via Alice (http://www.alice.org ) versus Linden Scripting Language. The students completed a house-building project and now they’re doing an art/photo show as well. Seems like half these kids are talented musicians/singers so sound is likely to be more of a focus for this course's efforts.

David Deeds has been invited to present for the Global Learn: Global Conference on Learning and Technology (http://www.aace.org/conf/glearn/), sponsored by the Association for the Advancement for Computing in Education (AACE, http://www.aace.org). The conference dates are November 6-8 and it'll be all virtual, which means you're invited to attend. Details coming soon. 

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