... or...

... how participation in an online virtual community has impacted one teacher's understanding of history, and how that has been reflected in actual classroom instruction.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

15 January 2013: Why Am I Here?

An Introduction to Role Play in Virtual Environments

My Second Life avatar, Augusta, exploring a new sim.

So another day, another blog post.  That's how it's supposed to work, right?  And for the #etmooc, they want us to introduce ourselves.  So I thought I might take a slightly different approach, since most of my "real life" information is posted on the G+ page.

What brings me to this MOOC is Second Life, which I have been accessing for a year and a half now.  It is basically a collection of virtual worlds that use avatars who can move through different simulated environments that we call sims.  It began as a part of a professional development course on games, simulations, and virtual environments in teaching and learning... and it has been a truly formative experience for me.

From the course, I was introduced to a number of education oriented groups (VSTE, ISTE) and through those groups, I have gotten to take part in other groups that are filled with educators (Virtual Pioneers, Expedition Central, Virtual Community Library), and taken part in conferences, tours, lectures, social events, and more.  From there, I started exploring different historically based sims (Versailles, Romanov Russia, Second Norway) and learning how to role play.  It's rather like acting, but you don't have a script and you develop your own personality and character within a historical context.  And just about a year ago, I happened to come across the 1920s Berlin Project.

This is a phenomenal group of residents (most of the regulars rent private homes, apartments, garrets) who are dedicated to experiencing life in the city of Berlin during the Weimar era.  We're stuck in 1929, but since that was a pivotal year in Interwar German history, it's more than fine.   
Augusta Carolina Maria von Nassau

It's Ausgezeichnet!

The creator of the sim is amazing, and has developed an atmosphere that really captures the essence of living in that era.  You can see from this second photo that the Berlin Augusta is a bit different from the regular Augusta (neither of whom look like me, by the way).  She has the bobbed hair and wears the fashion of the period; here, Augusta is all ready for a night on the town.  But it takes more than just the clothes to have an immersive experience in a virtual environment.  It takes a while to truly develop an RP (role play) backstory and character, the process of which I will describe in future blogs.  But it's due to the rules and the customs of the sim and the community that allows this incredibly rich historical experience to happen.

As you can read in my G+ background, I do teach World History and both levels of courses do touch upon the Weimar era in German history.  And although I have got all kinds of formal university coursework to my credit, and lived in West Germany during the transitional period of 1988-1991, it is this experience that has really provided me with a way to merge my educational background and past experience of living in a foreign country into something that allows me to have a very unique and invaluable perspective on the past.

So as we go through the #etmooc, I am hoping to find ways to not only enhance my own learning experience, but find ways to bring this enrichment to my 9th and 12th grade students.  I'll tell you more about the RP experience as well as the "regular" SL experience... and hope you enjoy the journey with me!


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