Do students like technology X? Do they need to?

Judy Robertson at Heriot-Watt has been using Second Life for first and second year programming classes, as revealed on Virtual World Watch. She notes that Second Life was an effective and engaging environment for students learning programming due to the rapid feedback and the ability to see what other students were doing. She also notes:

We have questionnaire data which indicates that our students don’t like SL very much. It has had negative publicity recently which makes some of them think it is “sad”. However, the students do on the whole like our module. They seemed to enjoy making their pets and are proud of them. There is not a straightforward motivational effect for SL itself, and it would be a mistake to use it on the assumption that the students will like it because it is fashionable.

Meanwhile, my own most recent class on Collaborative Virtual Environments has a range of comments from students including:

Second Life, the website, the forums and the video conferencing were all useful…

even though i loathed them [forums and blogs] when i started this module (and to a degree i still do) i feel they have played a very important role to the CVE module, and the CGT course.

We should avoid using technology because it is ‘cool’, or we think it might be trendy. Decisions should be based on how they might help student learning… and I’m glad that this year at least my students (and Judy’s, from the sounds of things) were able to see beyond their personal likes and dislikes and benefit from the use of Web 2.0 and virtual worlds in the classroom.

This again takes me back to Sarah Robbins keynote at last year’s SLEDcc conference (slides here) where she emphasised the importance of making explicit bargains with students… explaining why the class is doing something, and bringing them onboard.

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