Strategies to Build a Cross-National Virtual World

April 10, 2006

AbstractVirtual environments are more and more used in primary schools. One of the most interesting potentialities of these environments is to foster cross-national applications. Yet, this specific feature is not fully exploited. This paper presents a successful virtual learning environment for primary education involving two European countries and concerning multidisciplinary contents. Theoretically the project is inspired by the concepts of learners and virtual community, and refers to computer-supported collaborative learning and knowledge building. The virtual environment is composed by three-dimensional software able to generate virtual worlds and a discussion forum. Four Italian and three Dutch classrooms at different primary school grades participated. The virtual world built, called Euroland, is composed by several cultural houses. The qualitative description of the building process of the cultural houses proves virtual environments can be successfully introduced in primary education and fosters cognitive and social skills. Such success is due to the capability of the virtual environment to conjugate a playful dimension, the development of innovative content, and a real collaboration at a distance. The article ends with some conclusions and a reflection on some structural conditions at the school level, which are necessary for successful implementation in schools of such projects.

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