Branching out through VirtualPREX: Enhancing teaching in second life
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Copyright © 2012 Inter-Disciplinary Press
This version of the chapter in this book originally appeared in Masters, Yvonne and Gregory, Sue and Dalgarno, Barney and Reiners, Torsten and Knox, Vicki, in Jerry, P. and Masters, Y. and Tavares-Jones, N. (ed), Utopia and a garden party, 2012, first published by Inter-Disciplinary Press.
This article is published under the Open Access publishing model and distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/. Please refer to the licence to obtain terms for any further reuse or distribution of this work.
Virtual worlds have been incorporated into the repertoire of higher education teaching and learning for over a decade with numerous reports on the efficacy of this form of learning for both student engagement and enhanced student outcomes. The affordances of these worlds are being used to enhance another aspect of many higher education courses; work integrated learning. In teacher education courses, practice teaching is a core component. However, research has highlighted quality preparation for practice teaching as problematic. This is a particular challenge for distance education students necessitating new approaches to teacher preparation. Virtual world technologies have provided the authors with a capacity to develop 3D virtual classroom and playground environments. These are currently being tested as effective spaces for developing a range of critical teaching skills prior to pre-service teachers entering a physical classroom. These students have opportunities, through interaction in and with the virtual environment, to practise skills and apply concepts in a risk-free realistic setting. In this chapter, the authors discuss the problems of preparation for practice teaching and the ways in which the virtual world of Second Life is currently being tested as a site for enhanced teacher preparation. The results of the first trials are described and the future of the project explored.
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