Playful blended digital storytelling in 3D immersive eLearning environments

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Mystakidis, Stylianos
Lambropoulos, Niki
Fardoun, Habib M.
Alghazzawi, Daniyal M.
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ACM Press
This paper presents the pedagogical design, the technical development and initial findings of the educational program "From the Ancient to the Modern Tablets". Targeting at primary and secondary school students, this project aimed at creating immersive multimedia eLearning experiences about the book history as well as its future. The main aims for the students were to: motivate and promote the early literacy and extracurricular reading; establish cognitive links between writing, books and acquiring knowledge with technology; and possess the basic digital skills when using a tablet. The project experience consisted of a playful library tour, an interactive game-based digital storytelling activity with game elements followed by a collaborative creative hands-on activity as an open-door two-week institution-wide initiative called "Schools go to the University". The advanced technologies combined with engaging pedagogical methods enabled a cost effective yet rich learning experience. Utilizing the avatar psychology power, the visualization and simulation affordances of 3D immersive eLearning environments and the appeal of storytelling and game-based learning, the "gamified" blended narrative on the book evolution enabled learning as embedded and context-generated. The students were asked to help a digital agent, an avatar, on his quest in the 3D computer-generated virtual environments. With the help of this avatar, which was controlled by an LIC staff member, the children travelled back in time. The realistic environments allowed students to immerse themselves and experience aesthetics, architecture, clothing and the culture of the time as well as explore spaces, see samples and experiment with interactive objects related with the respective studied technological advancement or milestone. At the same time, appropriated soundtrack scores enhanced the atmospheric tension and feeling of immersion. These virtual environments were developed cost effectively in Second Life. In each step, students were encouraged to demonstrate their knowledge, understanding and critical thinking skills related to technological advancement through age-specific questions and quizzes grouped into large teams so as to actively participate in the game. In the second part, students worked in small groups of three to five pupils to discuss, decide and collaboratively create digital artefacts inspired by the book history. These groups used simple multimedia software in a modern tablet to produce impressive drawings. At the end of the program, the teachers evaluated their students' activities and performance by responding in an online questionnaire. The program proved out to be very popular among schools; the high engagement level created enthusiastic students' responses and learning behaviours that enhanced their perspectives on the book history.
Virtual reality, Virtual worlds, Education, Playful learning, Gamification, Digital storytelling, Primary education, Second life, Elementary education, Secondary education, Collaboration, Literacy, Motivation, E-learning, Blended learning, Computer-assisted instruction