This week I chose to critique a digital story titled “Using Virtual Worlds to Engage Gifted Learners.” This story was found through the LearnNC organization, which is affiliated with the University of North Carolina School of Education. This video was attached to the supplemental reading I did for this week’s reading response. I wanted to gear my readings and digital stories towards differentiation. As discussed in the chapter for this week’s reading, technology allows for students to explore literacy through mediums beyond reading and writing. It is important to create a classroom environment which allows a diverse body of students access to the material being presented. Technology is a tool that can be used to reach this diverse student population.
This video discusses differentiation specifically for gifted learners, but the concepts discussed could easily be applied for the general student population as well as ELL students and students with special needs. The story follows a teacher and her class as they use a computer program which has students create avatars which explore a digital world and are required to complete quests created by their teacher (as well as the developers of the program). The teacher did not specify what the subject area of the class was, but based on the content I believe it was a middle school social studies class. This story echoed the ideal classroom that has been discussed in the readings and discussion we have had in our class in which students are engaged and motivated to create their own learning. The teacher points out that even students who are home sick are motivated to jump online and complete their quests.
The students interviewed in the story talk about how much fun they have in the class because they get to play games. I was a bit skeptical at this until I heard more of what the students had to say. They were having fun because the quests they were completing had to do with real-world problems. The students explained how they were much more eager to learn when they were able to connect what was happening in the game to things that were happening in real life. For example, the students were working on a project in which they had to propose how money should be allocated to a struggling village in Africa; they could either focus on tourism or on farming. This project was completed outside of their digital world which shows how the different literacies can interact with one another.
The teacher discusses how the program allows her to create quests that are individualized for her students. She goes on to say that as students participate more and more throughout the year, her role as an instructor begins to fade and students begin to drive their own learning. The teacher is able to operate more as a collaborator.
There were no suggestions that I would make for this story other than that they did not share which program they were using. I would be very interested in exploring the program more to see how modifiable it is, and if it could be adjusted to fit different content areas.