Collaborative Learning Spaces Become Virtual Reality

A high school extends its learning environment to the cloud with an avatar-based pilot.

by / January 27, 2014 0
New Milford High School in New Jersey has a new collaboration space that could extend the learning culture of the school into the virtual arena. Laura Fleming

A virtual learning space could help a New Jersey high school overcome collaboration barriers.

At New Milford High School in New Jersey, Laura Fleming wanted to extend the school's learning culture into a virtual environment so that students could work together on projects at any time or place. In her role as a library media specialist, Fleming recognized that students face obstacles as they try to complete group projects.

Unless they're seniors, students don't have an independent study period to meet at the library, they often don't have the same lunch times as their team members, and not all of them can drive to each other's houses. These barriers make it difficult for students to work with each other, especially given their busy schedules and after-school activities.

"They have challenges when it comes to collaborating, and I don't think any of those things should stop us in the year 2014," Fleming said.

That's why she's working with a number of teachers this semester to pilot a virtual learning space where students can connect and collaborate, both inside the school and beyond. They've designed the virtual space with five rooms, including a theater, a hall, large meeting rooms and different learning spaces. And 120 kids are trying it out.

"I was just looking for a way to have a library that was always open, always available and provided a collaborative, flexible, fluid learning environment for students and staff," Fleming said.

In the virtual environment ProtoSphere, students can create content together, collaborate physically and virtually, and use various forms of media. Science teacher Vikki Smith said this virtual environment will help prepare students for global collaboration, both now and in their future careers.

She's hoping to continue collaboration within her classroom in this environment, but doesn't plan to stop there. "What this 3-D virtual reality is going to do for me is that we can have students working with other students around the country, around the world and having conversations."

Tanya Roscorla Former Managing Editor

Tanya Roscorla covered ed tech from 2009-2017.