Quest Atlantis project promotes use of virtual learning environments

By David W. Deeds, Technology Coordinator

CUAJIMALPA HIGH SCHOOL  19/10/2012 -- As the Peterson Schools continues to progress toward providing its students with a genuine 21st century education, the implementation of virtual or immersive learning environments will become an increasingly integral part of all curricula. They’re not just for computer science classes anymore!

What is Quest Atlantis? Its website (http://www.questatlantis.org/) sums it up best: “[It} is an international learning and teaching project that uses a 3D multi-user environment to immerse children, ages 9-16, in educational tasks. [It] combines strategies used in commercial games with lessons from educational research on learning and motivation.”

Quest Atlantis (QA) is currently undergoing a major transformation so don’t let the website descriptions confuse you. For years, QA has been based on Active Worlds technology and the interface has looked like this:


Everyone’s a kid in QA! This will remain the same, as will other features and benefits of this platform, but as of the end of 2012 this old look will be phased out in favor of a fantastic new 3D environment built via Unity technology:

Second Life and OpenSimulator are examples of 3D virtual worlds in which students and teachers start with a blank slate and are expected to create and build. Quest Atlantis is a pre-existing environment, so students and teachers focus on completing . . . quests . . . or missions. There are more than 500 quests available, ranging from preventing bullying to saving a town from the plague! Teachers can create their own quests as well. Students can also build, although the CAD tools are not nearly as sophisticated as those in Second Life or OpenSimulator.

Teachers love QA because, in addition to having an already-built world with predefined tasks, goals, etc., the platform also provides all the interfaces (and virtual paperwork) needed to conduct classes. You start with everything you need readily available via the Teacher Toolkit:

Students and teachers love QA mainly because of the broad variety of assignments available and the tasks involved in each. Science teachers can take students on a field trip to a polluted river, samples from which they must analyze under microscopes in order to determine what’s causing the problem and how to overcome it.

Social science teachers can place their students in different scenarios that require them to interview various stakeholders and propose solutions to common human conflicts. The new version, called Atlantis Remixed, features a Persuasive Argument Analyzer, which requires learners to take a debating position and support it with pro and con arguments.

Parents love it because it’s a completely secure 3D environment.

The instructors who have signed up so far for QA training are: Jose Luis Gutierrez, a Grade 3 English teacher at the Pedregal Campus, Cristina Bravo, a computer teacher at the Pedregal Campus and Emmanuel Teyssier, the Technology Coordinator at the Tlalpan Campus. We anticipate that more teachers will sign up before the training begins.

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