Coming Down to Earth: Helping Teachers Use 3D Virtual Worlds in Across-Spaces Learning Situations
Different approaches have explored how to provide seamless learning across multiple ICT-enabled physical and virtual spaces, including three-dimensional virtual worlds (3DVW). However, these approaches present limitations that may reduce their acceptance in authentic educational practice: The difficulties of authoring and sharing teacher-created designs across different 3DVW platforms, or the lack of integration of 3DVWs with existing technologies in the classroom ecosystem (e.g., widespread web-based learning platforms such as Moodle, or mobile augmented reality applications). Focusing on a specific kind of 3DVW (virtual globes, such as Google Earth, used like 3DVWs), we propose a system that enables teachers to deploy across-spaces learning situations, which can be authored with a plethora of existing learning design tools, that involve different common web-based learning platforms, mobile AR applications and multiple kinds of virtual globes. A prototype of the architecture has been developed to evaluate this novel approach. The mixed-methods evaluation performed comprised both a feature analysis and a study where a teacher deployed an authentic across-spaces learning situation including Google Earth used as a 3DVW. Such evaluation shows that the system enables teachers deploy learning situations over different technological ecosystems composed by physical and web spaces, as well as by 3DVWs.