I had a hard time choosing which resource to evaluate since minecraftEDU has the most to offer in terms of engagement and collaboration. Gamification and virtualization are wonderful tools when applied to the right contexts, however I realized that these tools will not suit all situations and subjects. This is because virtualization tools “tend to be task- and domain-specific” (Jonassen, 1999), in my mind choosing one over the other should warrant careful investigation of both. Since I already tend to lean toward the modern tools, I chose instead to evaluate the older WISE framework to give it fair consideration. It’s important to select a system for “problem representation [that best describes] the context in which [relevant learning] occurs” (1999). Without knowing both environments and their capabilities this would not be possible.
I explored the WISE environment by clicking on a lesson and going through the 2011 Cellular Respiration unit. While it’s environment wasn’t as virtually engaging as that of the Minecraft environment, I noticed that it immediately presented me with the problem context. It also provided a character or sort of a ‘case personality’ with which to relate. If I were teaching a similar or related subject and building a project-based learning activity I might include a similar resource to help students become acquainted with parts of the problem/inquiry process.
The site modules did present and enable some understandings of the performance environment. One area that didn’t offer enough in terms of affordance related to the fact that the WISE site seemed to deliver lessons in an individualized manner rather than providing a community focus. The lessons did tend to cause investment in the problem through the use of relatable experiences and scenarios, but failed to allow skills to develop through peer elaboration and problem solving. In comparison, the environment was less authentic although some modules provided manipulative tools and representation tools for students to organize and build understanding of the problem and potential solutions. It could be argued however that no virtualized environment is authentic, so it was difficult to really measure or compare this.
What was educationally significant was that a scaffolding is provided for investigation that helps guide the student through the process of problem solving/investigation. Students were asked to actively apply the information provided in follow up module where they complete sequences by manipulating objects and testing as would occur in the physical environment. In this case many of the WISE modules provided buttons that allow students to check their answers, however there weren’t any specific modeling resources for individualized direction, growth or feedback. Responses seem to be intended for evaluation more than the reflective processes necessary in a true constructivist learning environment. The mapping activity provided was good but not open-ended and as I progressed it became clear that this model itself was intended more for the relaying information than any open-ended PBL or CBL experience. Clearly it was intended for the scientific method but I do think it could have been modified to teach subjects in a more constructivist manner. The framework itself held promise for this but lacked tools to support distribution of learning among participants, differential representation of what is learned, and it lacked the opportunity to support higher level thinking through open-ended problems. The graphics, aesthetic, framework and build also left a lot to be desired.
Jonassen, D., (1999). Designing Constructivist Learning Environments. In C. Reigeluth (Ed.), Instructional design theories and models: Volume II. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Image source: Wyatt Wellman. (2010). Mi casa. [Image file] Retrieved from Flickr under CC by 2.0. https://flic.kr/p/7WFY6X