EDTech Island



EDTech Island is an interactive virtual environment which provides a place for educators to go to, to discuss current issues in education. Lisa Dawley, (2010) the creator of EdTech Island in Second Life, describes how EdTech Island was designed to train teachers and build collaboration and knowledge among educators and students. EDTech provides leader forums which educators can go that inform them about specific educational topics. For example after my group clicked on the AADES virtual forum icon, another page opened up, this page provided a description about the speakers who are scheduled to present and the topics that they will be discussing. Some of the educational topics that guest speakers discuss are authentic learning and assessment strategies just to name a few. The people presenting in these forums are educators and others from around the world who share research based presentations and findings to other educators.

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In addition to the schedules and list of guest speakers and their topics that can be found at AADES, there are several other ways to find out upcoming events and agendas that are available on EdTech Island. Because of the variety of schceduldes we encountered, our group decided to start investigating EdTech Island as if we were tourists. We paid a visit to Emily EdTech to find out more about the island. We were directed to the EdTech page Wiki which provided a wealth of information. The wiki provided information on how to navigate through EdTech Island, resources available (i.e., free condos for teachers), and even information on how to take graduate level courses on the island. It was benefical to talk with Emily because she provided and overiview and what to expect from the island. Next to Emily's station, we discoverd the island tour ride.
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N. Fanning, V.Bass, L.Sanchez with Emily EdTech

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The white, floating loveseat allowed us to explore the entire island! A tour guide (well really just a narrator), guided us all around the island and provided information on everything from the Pond which was used for social events, to the Millinuim Towers, and even encouraged us to be on the lookout for the island teleports so that we could visit places like the Magic Forest Skybox. We definitley encourage all visitors to take the tour because you are able to see parts of the island that you may not even be aware existed by just traveling on foot.


CENTER FOR VIRTUAL EDUCATORS


Within EdTech is a Center for Virtual Educators. Inside are various panels with information on how educators can use second life in their practice. The center itself is a great starting point for teachers new to Second Life and those wanting to know how to use virtual tools in teaching. As soon as you walk into the center, on your left, is a corner called “Tools for Teachers” (see photo below left).

In this area you can find tips on how to create virtual tools to assist your lessons or educational objectives. For example, one poster contains tips on how to create a book. Just below this poster is a book titled, “Social Networks and Adult Education” by Lisa Dawley.(See photo below center). The book describes adult learning theory, an introduction, overview and examples of social networking, examples of Second Life education projects, challenges and concerns of virtual worlds, some ideas on the future of social networking and online education, and how to get started. The book is a great introduction to any educator wanting to learn about social networking, Second Life and how to use both.

Upstairs in the Center for Virtual Educators are more panels with information on using Second Life. (See the photo below and right.) Clicking on the poster will activate a request to load a web page. If you click on the “Go to page” button (actual windows and options depend upon which Second Life client you have installed) your web browser will open a new tab to a SimTeach Wiki where a wealth of additional information resides.


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Tools for Teachers. Note brown poster to the left in this photo.

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Click poster to launch a web browser.

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Close-up photo of poster and book.


















CENTER FOR VIRTUAL WORLDS


Two learning objectives are accomplished within the Center for Virtual Worlds. The first is very practical. The center is a place to get information on virtual worlds and a primer on how to use Second Life. But the center is more than a place to impart information, it also leads by example. Through out the center various ways and tools to use virtual worlds are displayed. Teachers use the virtual world to learn about virtual worlds. Each poster, book, hologram, survey, etc. demonstrates how teaching can be done within Second Life. So visitors do not just learn about virtual worlds they learn how learning can be done within virtual environments.





MORE ON EDTECH ISLAND


EdTech Island is an educational virtual world created by Boise State. “EdTech Island offers a variety of spaces for inworld education events and teaching, a sandbox, and an informational center” (Wetpaint). Free spaces are available for educators across the world to teach at EdTech Island. Christen and I explored several areas where professors had created classrooms and learning environments within the sandbox.

Within EdTech Island is a gender bending powerpoint slide which allows students to participate in a virtual society as the opposite sex. To the left of this powerpoint slide was a group of monkeys hanging from bushes and trees - very entertaining. One of the most interesting things on EdTech Island was their sound garden. Depending on the location of where you were standing, there are different sounds of nature that you can listen to as you walk around the garden. My classmate Ashley Coulson and I enjoyed walking underwater and listening to the killer whales:
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It was truly fascinating to see how real and interactive the animals were. I never imagined getting that close to a whale. The sound garden was like a diverse habitat with many animals and plants. Along with killer whales in the sound garden, there were swans and canoes with oars to go across the water. Ashley spent some time riding in the canoe. However, she forgot to grab a paddle before leaving the dock.

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Another fascinating part of EdTech Island was a huge treehouse that reminds me of an elaborate cabin house. I don't know why, but I could not get on the inside of this treehouse. I was allowed to walk around the treehouse, sit on the porch, and look through the windows, but I could not open or walk through the front door. After about 15 minutes of trying to "break in" to the amazing treehouse, I left. EdTech Island had so many different places for students to visit and check-out. There was not one predominant theme on the island, which left me engaged the entire time.

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Photos By Christen Hashim & Ashley Coulson

I enjoyed my time on EdTech Island so much that I decided to do some research. Besides the several articles and publications posted on Boise State University about EdTech Island, I found a video that described the key foundations and purpose of BSU’s new virtual environment.





REFERENCES


Dawley, L. (2010, October 17). The Future of Virtual Environments and EdTech Island. Message posted to http://lisadawley.wordpress.com/2010/10/17/the-future-of-virtual-worlds-and-edtech-island/

Wetpaint. (n.d.) Retrieved from Wetpaint wiki: http://edtechisland.wetpaint.com/