Mindstorms Communication in Second Life.

Michael Vallance 1, Stewart Martin2, Charles Wiz3, Paul van Schaik2
1Future University, Japan, 2Teesside University, UK, 3Yokohama National University, Japan

BackgroundResearchers have demonstrated interest in using virtual worlds for science education as they provide a number of benefits such as making science relevant to the learner and providing a means to present opportunities to engage students in authentic scientific inquiry (Niemitz et al.,2008).Virtual worlds have the added advantage of allowing geographically separate groups of learners to interact and work together. However, de Freitas (2008) in her study of virtual worlds confirmed the need for, “developing better metrics for evaluating virtual world learning experiences” (p.11). Effective tasks must lead to specific and measurable outcomes. Students working together to program a robot to execute a specific number of discrete physical movements within a specified amount of time is one example of a measurable outcome. In a virtual world, a robot’s design and program can be communicated and taught through direct manipulation of virtual objects to other students located in different geographic locations. The degree of success of the transfer of process and information can be measured by the number of physical movements of the ‘taught’ robot as compared to the original program. It is posited that this knowledge transfer represents a move from the commonly seen replication of existing practice towards the exploitation of the unique pedagogical affordances offered by emerging technologies – a move from first to second order change (Cuban, 1992).ApproachRemotely located participating students in Japan communicate via Second Life (SL) in programming LEGO robots to navigate pre-determined courses. All communication is digitally captured. Personalised 'meaning' of data is analysed from follow-up interviews.StructureAfter introducing the research aims, we will login to the designed SL space and demonstrate how students utilised SL tools for communication and collaboration in the programming of a LEGO robot. The unique representation of Mindstorms blocks in SL will be manipulated and replicated. The block variables will be altered and the outcome replicated in the NXT Mindstorms software. The outcome will be a comparison of two programmed robots.OutcomesPragmatic exposure to a unique application of virtual worlds for science and communication. Critique the research process for an intended task design framework.Cuban, L. (1992) Curriculum Stability and Change. In P.W. Jackson (Ed.) Handbook of Research on Curriculum (pp. 216-247). New York: Macmillan.de Freitas, S. (2008). Serious virtual worlds: a scoping study. JISC publications. Retrieved March 14, 2009 from http://www.jisc.ac.uk/publications/publications/seriousvirtualworldsreport.aspxNiemitz, M., Slough, S., Peart, L., Klaus, A. D., Leckie, R. M. & St. John, K. (2008). Interactive virtual expeditions as a learning tool: the school of rock expedition case study. Journal of multimedia and hypermedia,17(4), 561-580.