Somerset Times

Teaching and Learning Projects




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The place of Project Based Learning and Computer Games in the learning of our students.

This year in Year 8 Religion and Philosophy, we are working on a teaching and learning project exploring the benefits of game based learning. Through this project, students will explore religious beliefs from multiple perspectives, with a view to developing a higher order understanding of different world religions.

Project based learning is a way of teaching and learning that means that students are immersed in a project over a period of time to allow them to not only gain knowledge of the topic, but to also deepen their understanding and engage in higher order, critical thinking processes.

In 2008, Dr Helen Farley at the University of Queensland carried out research on the use of an Internet-based Multi-User Virtual Environment (MUVE) for the teaching and learning of first year undergraduate Religious Studies students. As I read through her research, I could see links with many of our curriculum and MYP goals and could see benefits from our Year 8 students at Somerset College embarking on a similar project. Not only would students be learning about different religious beliefs through a project based approach, but it would also allow students to explore these beliefs through a first person perspective in a virtual world.

The past term has been spent in preparation for the unit, exploring the process and the educational theory behind 'games based learning'. I have had the opportunity to discuss the project with academics involved in this field from the University of Southern Queensland, Griffith University and Bond University. I am very grateful for the time and support they have offered for this project.

The project will take two parts. In Term Three, students will undertake a project exploring a particular world religion. Once they have explored the beliefs, rituals and practices of one religion, they will prepare to enter the second phase of the project. In this phase they will construct an avatar (a character in the 'game') that represents a follower of the religion they have studied.

Then they will enter the game and interact with other avatars from their class. The aim is for them to explore other religious communities that are in the game and find out through discussion about different religions. Obviously this will be a closed, carefully monitored 'world', or 'island' as they are called, with only our students allowed on to the island. The students will keep a blog of their experiences in the game, with challenges to promote higher order, critical thinking.

As we get closer to the start date, more information will be provided to Year 8 parents. It promises to be an exciting Semester 2!

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