For some years I had been mulling over ways in which I could transform my science classroom experience into one in which students would role play as ongoing avatars wherein the labs and other activities could become gamified. Students would have a running count of experience points and a narrative of building their avatar and leveling up as the year went by, Eventually, I came across the book From Campfires to Holodecks, by Dr. David Thornburgh. Seeing video footage of his efforts towards building a simulation room brought my ideas into focus and I was soon off the Games Learning Society Conference in Madison, Wisconsin where I attended the presentation session of Gary Gardiner, the creator of Dream Flight Adventures. Now everything was coming together. Using Dream Flight Adventures and Minecraft as the core simulation software off of which I could create deeply immersive 3-day missions, soon thereafter, I broke ground on a new building specifically designed to be an immersion room, The Education Immersion Center, as it is called at my school. I blueprinted and designed every detail of the facility from the design of the furniture, floor plan, lighting, projection systems, and audiovisual and computer cables in both the floor and ceilings. I worked closely with the construction crews to ensure the job was done correctly according to my plans and I purchased and installed most of the equipment.
Now my time is spent creating and delivering simulation-based learning experiences at this amazing facility, here at Colegio Internacional de Carabobo in Valencia, Venezuela...the hatch door closes, the simulation suddenly becomes real. The students are no longer just students—"but heroes, leaders, scientists, and engineers. They take ownership over their roles and they kick their brains into full gear. Students have risen to the challenge, found their inner leadership skills, and worked together as a team to save the day".
In addition to their spaceship bridge consoles, students are also given tasks created by their grade level teachers tied to the curriculum being learned in the regular classrooms. The storyline narrative and the application of the regular classroom content and skills can provide students with the relevancy and practice of what their teachers have been teaching them. As we move into the future, it is my hope that schools will revamp their curriculum to include simulation-based learning modelled after the activities and problem solving that adults in the real world are involved with today and in the future. Simulation-based learning can transform abstract ideas into experience and competancy
Students appear for their 3-day mission in costume as their avatar and are assigned a role to play such as a doctor, pilot, engineer, navigator, physicist, captain, 1st officer, biologist etc. Students must apply 21st Century Skills to solve the challenges they face as a part of the Infinity Knights crew aboard their ship, the Artemis Chargers.
The activities that teachers create for the individual crew members are related the role they play. Engineers might be working with Snap Circuits to build electronic devices for the proper running of the ship. In others, as in the video on the left, the Security Team is working with Sphero robots to program them for a bomb sweep of the bridge to thwart the attempts of hostiles.
The time from inception to completion of construction was 1.5 years, well worth the wait!
In the fall of 2013, this is the book that set the wheels in motion by taking the concept of the holodeck from Star Trek and creating learning spaces that engage students in open ended questioning and collaborative problem solving by being immersive, interactive, interdisciplinary, innovative, and interesting.
With the ideas of David Thornburgs book in mind we set off to create our own immersive learning space. In the summer of 2014 CIC teacher Todd Lichtenwalter attended the GLS 10 conference in Madison Wisconsin where he attended the workshop of Gary
Gardiner of Dream Flight Adventures. Their software would greatly accellerate the process and now forms the core of the simulator experience.
Step 3: Learning Space Design
Blue prints for the interior space were completed early 2015. The intention from the outset was to create a space that allowed for a flexible immersive learning space. All furniture was built having wheels. Ethernet ports, hardware purchases, and initial wiring connections for audio, media, lighting, and communications were done so as to allow for future integration of new technologies and tools.
Step 4: Building Construction
Construction began in mid-April 2015. Working with a construction company and our in-house carpentry experts, the building and furniture were custom designed. As sound effects play an important role in creating the fantasy of being in other worlds, a site was selected on campus that would afford for the sound levels coming from the building to not disturb other classrooms.
Step 5: Hardware Installation:
Over the course of the summer in 2015 work was done to assemble the complex wiring and installation of hardware and custom-built furniture.
Step 6: Testing and Initial Launch
A period of 1 month was given to adjust and test systems for correct operation before the first classes participated.
Step 7: Teacher Collaboration for Customizing Curriculum
Each subject teacher in grades 3-12 contribute content to the missions that directly addresses their classroom curriculum and standards