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Better learning with web 2.0 and virtual worlds

In a visit to Ngee Ann Secondary School yesterday (22 July), FutureGov found students deeply engaged in learning. Students were strolling down corridors of 3D virtual art galleries or were chatting away with William Shakespeare. These were two of many other initiatives aimed at making the school a pace setter and leader for the innovative use of technology in teaching and learning.

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“We are focused on leveraging emerging technologies to help engage students,” said Head of Department (ICT) Steven Wong. “The 3D virtual world of Second Life was used to create an online art gallery with works contributed by partner schools in other countries.” Wong, with the help of an ‘ICT Think Tank’ committee (pictured), champions innovation among 85 teachers and 1500 students. Ngee Ann is recognised as a trailblazer among 90 schools in the east of Singapore.

The pilot project in 2008 with three Secondary Two classes proved to be very successful. Using avatars, students could appreciate art pieces at their own pace, post comments, and even walk into 3D art pieces.

“We can decide what our individual avatars wear, and fly around the gallery! It is not as intimidating to express what we think of the pieces, which makes it much easier for our classmates who are shy,” said Francoise Ying and Isabel Tan, both Secondary Three students.

Teacher Gloria Tan was not expecting to bring up students’ grades when she started this project. She has however observed qualitative improvement in the interest of her class. “Students, who previously had problems giving just one or two lines of response when asked to comment on a piece, are now more engaged and expressive. Most of them have never been to a gallery and the Second Life virtual gallery has sparked interest in many students to visit one in the real world,” she added. Secondary Three student Natasha Emir is one such student who convinced her parents to take her to the Singapore Art Museum after taking Tan’s class.

Bandwidth was a challenge when the project first started, according to Alvin Tan, Senior Teacher, Educational Technology. “Two students had to share a computer initially as we only had the bandwidth for 20 computers to run Second Life at one time. Once we saw how successful the virtual world was in getting the interest of students, we did not hesitate to invest in faster internet connection,” he commented.

Since the completion of the 2008 pilot run, the initiative was expanded to all Secondary Two classes. In order to set up a private island on Second Life, Ngee Ann invested a one-time set up fee of US$800 and recurring fee of US$750 every six months. This project received the Bronze Award in the Research and Development category of the IMS Global Learning Impact Awards this year.

“Another project which made big improvement in helping students learn is a self-directed learning tool on Microsoft’s MSN Messenger platform,” Wong continued. William Shakespeare is brought back to life through a virtual character, with whom students interact.

Rachel Poh, Teacher (English Language), observed that many students found it difficult to identify with and relate to the Elizabethan world. “In the first two lessons, we gently introduce this new culture and language through the virtual character who chats on the modern and familiar MSN platform. Students now think that Shakespeare is ‘cool’ and agree that English Literature is becoming easier,” she added. Students even posted on Facebook that they went to the library to borrow more books on Shakespeare.

“We believe in a ‘High Tech, High Touch’ approach – teachers must be supported if they need to use IT. Any new technology project must be pedagogically sound. If students can learn something perfectly well without the use of IT, you do not need to change anything. So we are finding opportunity gaps where IT can make a significant difference in the effectiveness of teaching,” concluded Wong, who manages an annual IT budget of over S$200,000 (US$ 145,708).

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10 Comments

On 8 August 2010 James wrote:

for your information, I'm a ngee ann student. the school is stalking our commnication between students. example, student A text message “the discipline master is such an idiot” to student B, the school can see it, via paying the service provider. and scanning through our facebook posts and status. So i assime that the school is becoming a police or what? is this what a school is suppose to do? i mean taking disciplinary actions to the extend of invading our student's privacy?


On 9 August 2010 Judy wrote:

I suppose one has to take responsibily for what one says in cyberspace. Teenagers these days want more freedom but complain when they do wrong as they are chided. As a mother, I can understand where the school is coming from. I am trying to educate my 2 sons who sounded just like James to be more mature and responsible as they grow up in this digital era. My son hopes to get into the school.


On 17 August 2010 ABCEDFGHIJ wrote:

James: Hello there fellow NASian :)
If you did not do anything wrong, i do not see why you should be afraid of the school checking on student's, for that matter, your FB account. However, I may agree that checking our messages is a little overboard because it is our personal conversations with friends/family. Like the example you have given, you labeled your discipline master 'stupid'. The very fact you can give this example shows that you have utterly NO respect for the authorities placed over you in our school. Therefore, you ought to be punished- Not only because it is rude to call your teacher stupid but also, you know it is not right yet you(In the example) still choose to do it? -.- Fine, maybe on that certain day you were unhappy about something but i believe there are better ways of handling it. I hate to say this but i have been in Ngee Ann long enough to know that the school cares. Maybe you wont see it in my perspective but hopefully, you will down the road. It is and will be for your own good.
By the way, why do you want to post this online? So it reflects that the school is bad? A little advice, maybe you should get your english right before posting such comments.
Example .
you siad ' extend of invading our student's privacy'
I think you meant extent(?) and students(?)
Because, student's = student is.
.
But seriously, what benefit do you get for posting this?
You might get punished by the school(more hell from what you're already experiencing). Things would not change either, rules are rules.
It's like bitting your own tail.


On 17 August 2010 Jean Paul wrote:

Thanks for this wonderful article. I am a graduate student from INSEAD and am wondering how I can contact the school to do a feature on their technologies. This is what I want to see in my country but I think we far behind in how we use technologies in my city. Will share this article with my friends in the schools & friends in the school of education.


On 28 August 2010 John Matthews wrote:

Congrats Ngee Ann. I remember the school from the ICP conference in Suntec Singapore last year.


On 2 October 2010 Qwan Jee wrote:

The Immersive Education Initiative is free for educators and provides hundreds (maybe thousands) of free learning virtual worlds, learning games, resources and materials for educators who want to use immersive learning technologies in and out of the classroom. They are an international non-profit consortium with thousands of members that teach millions of students, and some of the best of their work is showcased at annual “Immersive Education Summit” conferences that are held around the world at different times. You can get more information at http://Immer… or do a google search for “Immersive Education Initiative” where you will find thousands of results. Pretty impressive! - Qwan


On 18 June 2011 Spiritual Movies wrote:

Really amazed how far that school is in with the technologies.


On 25 July 2011 Bangora Uma Lochan High School Comilla Bangladesh wrote:

Estd in 1885, Bangora u l high school is one of the oldest and most famous high schools in Bangladesh (South Asia). Under the DFID - Global School Partnerships (GSP) Program, our School is registered with the Global Gateway UK, British Council, Alec Hunter Humanities College Essex East London <http://www.a… UMA LOCHAN HIGH SCHOOL - AN INTERACTIVE GLOBAL SCHOOL OF FUTURE – A CENTRE OF EXCELLENCE
Our Web site: <http://www.b…> is in the making. We are looking for a quick-time comprehensive in-school training in visual learning that offers the best opportunity for the students and teachers to help themselves best in three domains, namely Cognitive Domain, Psychomotor Domain, and Affective Domain, when learning and teaching becomes an enjoyable and rewarding experience.

It spearheads a Teachers'Net - A TEACHERS' RESOURCES-SHARING NETWORK, with the teachers of 42 schools in Muradnagar Subdistrict (Upazilla) based on one-to-one info-sharing-basis almost like a virtual game - musical pillow using mLearning using 2G/3G Mobile Telephony, as every 7.5 out of 10 Households have access to Cell Phones in Bangladesh. Its largely a kind of visual education and mLearning program that is of interests to all teachers and learners both - motivating young learners, fostering inclusive schooling and improving the schooling outcomes, identifying programs.

We want to make teaching and learning an enjoyable experience and make the classrooms digital - inclusive and interactive. Here, education should be a part of great fun that evokes edutertainment to all, coz nobody comes here to read or write, everybody learns through a joint learning process and they find their teachers (“masters” - traditional role-models) as guides, philosophers, friends, and mentors.

To add, you would enjoy a new experience of total literacy embed with formal high school teaching and learning following a national curriculum while following Global Curriculum.

We solicit all out support from your end in making all our endeavors a success,

Our School is now in the Facebook: Bangora u l high school <http://www.f…>

Posted by: Deviprasad, Chair-person, School Managing Committee (SMC), of Bangora ulh School. Email: deviprasad.mazumder@gmail.com


On 28 July 2011 personal statement samples wrote:

I am that impressed that there are school are eager to tech their students this kind of lesson, it is not mandatory though, but it should be a must for everyone.


On 11 June 2013 Campulse wrote:

Better Technology, a fun learning culture, and gamification of education can take Learning and Education a long way in these times. And Schools and Colleges need to adopt such measures.


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