Since the quarantine started in March, I’ve had some experience with and done a lot of thinking about digital, at-home teaching in kindergarten. After quite a few hours teaching on Zoom, one thing that stood out was that it had no sense of place. The kids were at home and I was in mine, but our meeting happened nowhere other than “on the computer.” It seems to me that for many aspects of online kindergarten, it would be better if we met in a virtual space of some kind. I’d like for the kids to have avatars, which they could customize and dress, and which gave them options to express different moods, and we’d get together in a space that has some kind of character.
From my personal experience with video games, I know that virtual environments can often feel like a real place. You have a sense of going into alternate world, with its own struggles and rewards, with its own character and ways of being. A virtual classroom that had these qualities—that felt like a place—would be much more engaging, I think, than teleconferences.
MEE is a likely base for such a system, though I believe it is limited to local networking. I could build my own classroom, but I'd like to have some teacher resources. Within the virtual classroom, I'd like to be able to:
- Share doc camera and screen,
- show pictures and video,
- offer portals to educational sites/games,
- have some students engaged in independent activities while others are in small group with me
At a higher level, I can imagine a game-like atmosphere in which students are motivated to acquire skills by engagement and reward systems like those found in games (e.g., a sense of progress, of building things, of earning perks).
No one is better positioned than the Minecraft Education Edition team to attempt such a thing!
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