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Shared virtual learning environment

School-kids of Turku, Dhaka learn together

Published : 10 Sep 2018, 23:30

Updated : 11 Sep 2018, 10:38

  DF Report

Photo Source: City of Turku.

Fourth grade schoolchildren of two schools – the Pääskyvuori in Turku, Finland and the Dhaka Joy & Hope in Bangladesh – started to know each other by throwing a ball back and forth and playing hide and seek in a virtual learning environment.

In this globally unique experiment, fourth-graders will get to develop and experiment with a new kind of learning environment together with researchers, said a press release issued by the University of Turku on Monday.

Working with students and teachers, the researchers are gathering ideas for building new ways of learning. Under the initiative, school students in Turku and Dhaka will meet and study together in virtual reality beginning from autumn 2018.

“We are really nervous,” said Pääskyvuori fourth-grader Aaro Sonck right before the first virtual lesson held in conjunction with the schoolchildren of Dhaka.

“They’re there on the other side of the world; it feels a bit funny and really cool,” exclaimed another fourth-grader, Linnea Nurmi.

The connections and devices are working, they have been tested plenty of times, but now is the time for the first lesson together. The video feed from a classroom in Dhaka appears on the screen and enthusiastic waving begins on both sides. The idea is to start designing a shared virtual environment and ways of learning, there is no readymade model.

The first lesson is all about getting to know the technology and equipment. This is accomplished in a virtual village by playing ball games and hide-and-seek. Every student raises hand when the teacher, Eetu Jokinen, asks who wants to put on a VR headset and explore the virtual village with the Dhaka students.

“The fourth-graders meet each other in virtual reality once a week for an hour at a time. They are building an equal learning environment in terms of both technology and content. At the same time, the encounters support the teaching of language and culture,” said Pääskyvuori Principal Erkki Rötkönen.

He said, “The new curriculum requires phenomenon-based and multidisciplinary learning modules. Here the pupils solve problems and do tasks, developing the virtual world and study methods to suit their needs. The pupils can work together, do assignments and communicate by speaking, gesturing and moving.”

Researchers are using the experiment to look for ideas that can later be applied when building more versatile ways of learning.

“We are trying out an unusual way of doing research under co-operation between the university and a comprehensive school. Support from the City of Turku and Hesburger and the virtual reality environment delivered by CTRL Reality made it possible to transfer ideas from the drawing board into practice,” said  Senior Researcher Tuomas Mäkilä from the Department of Future Technologies at the University of Turku.