In February 2012, a key team of educators joined the PLANE team to trial peer coaching in an immersive, purpose built 3D environment. This trial was a proof of concept exercise, to test peer coaching on the newly constructed “Coach Away Island” within the PLANE virtual world (VW). The Peer Coaching program is designed to help schools implement a professional development model that can enhance standards-based instruction by assisting teachers to offer students engaging, technology rich, learning activities.
A Google doc was used to collaboratively conceptualise what a virtual peer coaching space might look like and Coach Away Island was constructed by PLANE’s 4 gaming interns.
The trial included a virtual bootcamp for participants to customise their avatar and learn to walk, fly, teleport and navigate the virtual world. Another session was held on Bootcamp Island where we explored the use of QR codes, AR codes and building prims (objects in the virtual world) in the prim playground. We trialled coaching conversations in custom designed “pods”(an elevated room) and gathered requirements for interactive functionality required in these rooms.
A master class was held in the virtual convention centre with a talk by Dr Les Foltos from Peer-Ed. Les talked about the coaching skill of moving from “nice” to innovation. Master class attendees discussed strategies coaches could use to challenge collaborating teachers to move forward in their teaching practice, whilst maintaining a relationship of trust. The virtual master class provided the opportunity for educators from various locations in Sydney, various regional areas of NSW and Seattle USA, to meet in a cost effective way (in fact without leaving their desktop computer) to engage in professional learning together. One attendee reported “I was amazed at how immersed I was in the environment, and how I had blocked out the shared office space around me” and that the 3D world had “incredible potential for professional learning”.
This trial pushed the limits of our hardware and software and we experienced a new model of professional learning. Participants reported that despite the necessary learning curve to operate confidently in the virtual environment, it provides great potential to collaborate and connect educators regardless of geographic location and a fun way to engage in professional development.