Let Us Learn in the News

15 August 2011

Taking virtual learning to Africa

UniSA virtual learning expert Dr Denise Wood and a team of international researchers are undertaking research in South Africa focusing on strategies for improving learning outcomes for children in developing countries.

Dr Wood and members of the research team including Professor Noel Lindsay from the University of Adelaide and Charles Morris (UniSA contract programmer) have recently returned from a follow-up visit to South Africa’s Limpopo and Gauteng provinces.

Dr Wood said the research team, which also includes Associate Professor Sheila Scutter from James Cook University, Dr Charles Kivunja from the University of New England and Janyth Ussery from Virtual Helping Hands Inc in the US, is undertaking a pilot study to measure the impact of 3D virtual learning environments on learning outcomes, learner motivation, creativity and the self-esteem of grade four learners from socially disadvantaged schools as well as special schools in South Africa.

Read the full article here

18 July 2011

Gauteng, Limpopo teach in 3D


Virtual Masifunde, a constructivist 3D virtual learning environment (3DVLE), is being piloted in schools in two South African provinces, by a team of international researchers.

The team from Australia and the US has this month begun a pilot study that will measure the impact of 3DVLE environments on learning outcomes, learner motivation, creativity and the self-esteem of grade four learners in the Gauteng and Limpopo provinces.

Learners are taught numeracy and literacy through practical applications in a virtual world. For example, they will make purchases in a supermarket or use fractions to divide a vegetable garden according to given instructions.

"This turns abstract theory into concrete reality for students,” says the project. It explains that a software application was developed that allows students to explore the virtual world, allowing them to walk about and learn practical lessons.

Read the full article at www.itweb.co.za here

12 July 2011

3D learning in South Africa

Dr Denise Wood from the University of South Australia will build on work developed as part of her ALTC project, ‘Facilitating flexible, enquiry-based learning through an accessible three-dimensional learning environment’ to study ways children in South African schools could benefit from 3D virtual learning environments (3DVLEs) in their classrooms.

Read the full article here

7 July 2011

Press Release

For Immediate Release: Trials of leading-edge 3D virtual learning technologies begin in Gauteng and Limpopo Province Schools

An international team of researchers from Australia and the United States is here in South Africa from
9-17 July to begin a pilot study that will measure the impact of constructivist 3D virtual learning
environments (3DVLEs) on learning outcomes, learner motivation, creativity and the self-esteem of
Grade 4 learners in Gauteng and Limpopo provinces. The study is particularly timely in light of the
recent Department of Education report (The Report of Annual National Assessments 2011) findings of
the low performance levels of Grade 3 learners in the country. This study has confirmed that basic
education in South Africa is under stress. The reasons are complex and include the challenges
associated with supporting 11 major official languages, large classroom sizes, low levels of teacher
skill, social disadvantage often associated with low parent participation and poorly resourced schools.
The 3DVLE pilot project aims to investigate the potential of constructivist learning facilitated through
a 3D virtual learning environment designed to engage learners in collaborative, creative problem
solving activities in which numeracy, literacy, life skills and creative activities are embedded in a
motivating game-like environment. One unique feature of this learning style is that there is minimal
intervention from teachers; the role of the teacher one of facilitator and mentor supporting student
driven learning. These models have proved highly successful in many studies conducted around the
world, especially those undertaken by Dr. Sugata Mitra. The children observed in these experiments
have been found to learn new skills collaboratively through their exploration of concepts with
minimal teacher involvement. This project builds and extends on previous research showing the
potential of 3D virtual learning environments for improving learning outcomes and engaging learners
in an intrinsically motivating approach as well as the lessons learned from Professor Mitras minimally
invasive education approach.
Dr. Denise Wood is the researcher leading this project. She is senior lecturer and researcher in media
arts in the School of Communication, International Studies and Languages at the University of South
Australia. She has extensive experience in the effective use of educational technologies to engage and
motivate learners. This project is building on foundational work already undertaken in Australia
through the support of an Australian Learning and Teaching Council grant. Other major contributors
to the project include the University of South Australia and local stakeholders and partners including
the Department of Basic Education, South Johannesburg Office represented by Robert Abrahams,
Head of Policy and Planning. NGO SANZEF, Siyafunda CTC and Esquire Technologies are playing
an important role in the funding and installation of the computer labs in the 6 schools in the Gauteng
pilot study.
The stakeholders and funding contributors to the work being undertaken in schools in the province of
Limpopo are the Limpopo Department of Education and Limpopo Economic Development

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