Educational aims and content

This was the first build I worked on with Desi and Literature Alive! There is an interesting narrative about it that you can read below. However, this class-space splits nicely over 3 main elements educationally and in terms of a build.

  1. Ice breaker game in situIce breaker game:

Scattered through the forest are various rocks and tree stumps. These contain quotes from famous American works of literature, with no citation in one set, and book names and authors in the other. Students try to match these up, using existing knowledge and/or research skills (google is popular for find who wrote a particular quote), and it encourages interaction between the students as they look for people who know where the matching piece is.

The forest setting appealed to Desi because American Literature starts with the arrival in virgin forest so there's a tie to that early stage in her mind, which is articulated to the class.

  1. Interior of the Poe HouseThe Poe House:

Inspired by the House of Usher but with elements of many famous stories and poems (I won't tell you all of them, but in the picture we obviously have "The Cask of Amontillado". Go and look around for yourself to see the others, there are at least 5 more you can find elements of).

This is a different sort of matching game, students are provided with the texts (well most of them) to identify the elements in the house and asked to discuss what's there, what's missing, what's wrong - and there are some deliberate mistakes in there to discuss.

From an educational point of view this moves them towards creating well reasoned and supported arguments, developing their writing skills in these areas. It might sound like lofty aims, but with a good teacher you could see these skills developing in the course of the lesson.

  1. End of the Young Goodman Brown trailThe Young Goodman Brown trail:

Another wander through the forest, this time to collect the parts of the story, and again discuss it at the end, around a campfire.

This, along with the Poe House, made for very strongly immersive learning environments - the students were in the environment for the story they were thinking about.

The picture shows the campfire at the end:

Development of a term: class-spaces

As already mentioned this is the first build I did with Desi for Literature Alive! We actually started with a couple of wooden buildings with large amounts of wall space, one for Am. Lit, one for Women's Studies. Whilst I was reasonably satisfied with the builds from a technical point of view, Desi finally rebelled and decided she wanted somewhere to teach that was different, unconfined, and to some extent rebelling against the very corporate looking builds starting to surround her. You can read Desi's thoughts on the process on her blog. This was one element in the start of a beautiful friendship and working partnership.

The Poe House and Young Goodman Brown followed on from this and formed the basis of the idea of a "class space." They also reinforced the success of such immersive learning environments, at least for me.

It also coined the term class-space. Learning was taking place, there were classes, but no rooms, well, except in the Poe House. Classroom just won't do, but class-space makes the point very nicely - and hopefully is also a new enough word to make you think. Do you stick to your classrooms because of utility or habit? There are definitely things that benefit from being in a room, or a house, but not everything does. Do we need to stick to the idea in SL where we don't need shelter from the weather or the neighbours in the same way?

Technical notes

Alice bots are simple pseudo-AI scripts that try to promote conversation. They use a few pointed questions "What would you like to talk about?", "Why do you think that" and some neutral but conversation prolonging comments such as "I see" and "Really?" The script was initially developed for a chat setting to train new users to use the chat window in SL. Although not everyone will engage in a detailed chat with an alice bot, well crafted ones can and do engage the user in conversation, and they can be used to generate interesting reflections on the learning that has just taken place. They won't replace interaction with a teacher any time soon, but they do work remarkably well if you get the questions and statements right.

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Am. Lit. classes
Archetypal Cavern
Bailey's Café
British Gothic Lit.
Dante's Inferno
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