Forsyth County Schools - First Learning Experiences
ATLANTA, GA - May 29, 2012 - Students at Piney Grove Middle School in Cumming, Georgia recently completed their first learning adventure in the NOBLE Virtual World, a 3D virtual learning environment designed especially for project-based learning. NOBLE is available to every one of the 3300 teachers in Forsyth County Schools which is located 30 miles north of Atlanta, Georgia.
The Piney Grove 8th grade project, The Regions of Georgia Amusement Park, required collaborative teams to construct an amusement park with areas and rides representing the different geographical regions of Georgia
The following asynchronous interview was conducted by Steve Mashburn, Coordinator of Online Education, Forsyth County Schools, and the grid master of NOBLE (New Opportunities for Better Learning Environments). The interviewees from Piney Grove Middle School included Instructional Technology Specialist Jim Wiles, Media Specialist Amanda Tucker, and 8th grade students Tracy Butler and Alex Pijanowski.
Grid Master: Tracy, tell us about your role in the project.
Tracy (8th grade): We built an amusement park based on facts about a region of Georgia. My group chose the Coastal Plains. We designed sketches of our part of the park. As a team we were able to easily divide our tasks up and I could literally see every member’s progress each day. This was the first time I have ever felt that each team member was doing their fair share of work on a project.
Grid Master: How was working in NOBLE? Was it difficult?
Tracy (8th grade): At first I had a little bit of difficulty but after a day or so I found it was easier and easier to maneuver my avatar and build buildings.
Grid Master: Alex, was the difficulty worth the effort?
Alex (8th grade): NOBLE was a unique way to learn. Even though it took more time initially, I found that I could learn in a way that resonated with me. It was fun and interactive. It was interesting to be able to explore the areas that my classmates created.
Grid Master: Amanda and Jim, virtual worlds are known for having steep learning curves. Was that your experience with the students?
Amanda (media): No, in fact, it has been thrilling to see the talents of students (some who have struggled all year) to engineer amazing structures with little effort.
Jim (ITS): The very first day we attempted NOBLE one student immediately became an expert and began writing scripts for his avatar.
Grid Master: How effective is NOBLE in terms of mastery of standards?
Alex (8th grade): I found that I was able to visualize the objectives and the standards I was learning about more clearly.
Jim (ITS): Not only standards for the unit but connections to other standards as well. Some of our students, on their own, discovered how to use the math coordinates to find where they were and in their building of the objects to scale.
Grid Master: I envision NOBLE as a delivery system suited for social constructivism. That is, learning is what the learner constructs from his/her experiences and that learning always operates within a social context. Can Jim and Amanda speak to that?
Jim (ITS): One student, who had a difficult time getting along with others, questioned if everyone should “friend” each other in NOBLE. However, I observed that when everyone accepted his friendship and exchange “gifts” (clothes, building materials, and textures) his involvement and interaction with his classmates increased. He was finally part of the team.
Amanda (media): The most surprising part of my experience as a teacher was how much the girls excelled at NOBLE. I never expected the girls to be so adept and enthusiastic about a virtual world.
Grid Master: Is that right, Tracy?
Tracy (8th grade): Yes, I loved that I could reinvent myself to look however I wanted too. I was able to try different styles and looks in NOBLE in a way I would never try in my real life.
Grid Master: Students, any final thoughts on your learning adventure?
Tracy (8th grade): My only complaint was I wanted even more time to enhance the coastal plain region part of the park.
Alex (8th grade): The complexity was something I had to overcome but I look forward to the day when other students can come into NOBLE and learn from my creations and vision.
Grid Master: It sounds like this was an authentic learning experience for you. I hope your teachers next year will take advantage of this great new learning tool that they have at their disposal. We wish you both great successes as you enter high school.
ABOUT FORSYTH COUNTY SCHOOLS
Forsyth County Schools is known for being on the forefront of instructional technology. In early May, the district was featured on the CBS Evening News for its Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) initiative. NOBLE, hosted by Dreamland Metaverse, is the latest endeavor to increase student achievement through increasing engagement.
Forsyth County Schools is extremely proud of South Forsyth High School for being recognized in the Newsweek’s list of “America’s Best High Schools” and for North Forsyth High School, Forsyth Central High School, South Forsyth High School, West Forsyth High School and Lambert High School to be listed in the Washington Post’s national ranking, called “The High School Challenge”. The rankings are extremely competitive, and it is an honor for our high schools to be on these lists.
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