Click on image to see the children interact with Gifted Kids Virtual World
At the Gaelscoil Eoghain uí Thuairisc in Carlow, Ireland where lessons are taught in Irish they are implementing the use of 3D technology for the learning support of gifted children. This is the first time that this technology has been used in Ireland to teach part of the school curriculum. The interactivity and detail of the 3D technology means that anything you can do or build in the real world can be replicated in this virtual world.
Gifted children who, at the most conservative estimate, make up 5% of the entire school population are taking part in a pilot programme devised by the school in conjunction with Irish software company Daynuv, and Giftedkids.ie, an association specifically set up to advocate for provisions to be made in the education system and elsewhere for the needs of gifted children.
Bríd Uí Mhaoluala, who runs the project for one hour every week in the school with the children helped to devise the pilot program. She has been working with gifted children for over ten years and she welcomes the lack of need for any real learning curve when initially engaging with the software. She says, “I’m not a computer whizz. I am the sort of person who presses the button without reading the instructions to see what this thing does. But if we can do it here any teacher can do it and that’s the most attractive thing about it, I think. It’s accessible to any teacher who wants to try it.”
She gave the children minimal instruction in how to get started and in a very short time they were way ahead of her in terms of understanding the capabilities of the software and their inventiveness in what they were able to create. The exceptional nature of gifted children, even within the educational community, can be the source of many problems as Brida explains, “Some teachers can be a little bit scared of exceptionally abled children and don’t want to admit that they don’t know how to do it but you need to pack your ego [away] and say, Right, you are going to get this more quickly than I did. You’re probably going to be better at this then I would. So run with it.”
James Corbett, co-founder of Daynuv (an Anglicisation of the Irish word ‘deanamh’ which means making,) a company that provides virtual worlds for education says, “It’s an open source platform called OpenSim which is an open source version of Second Life. What it does is give you a 3D space which, on first blush, looks like a gaming environment that you see on a console.
“It’s a 3D space, you have six degrees of movement, up and down, left and right and in and out of the space. But unlike a game it is not a pre-programmed environment it’s something you can decide exactly what you would like it to be.
“So, what the kids initially get from us is a clean slate, sixteen acres of land that they can terraform, build their own terrain. If they want to build mountains or valleys or rivers or lakes then they can build that. On top of that they can use building tools to build whatever they want. First and foremost it is a platform about building and constructing unlike a lot of console games which are about destructing. It’s…about collaborating.”
Margaret Keane is a strong supporter of the Gifted Kids Virtual World project. She runs Giftedkids.ie which describes itself as “An Online Survival Guide for Parents & Teachers of Gifted Children in Ireland.” It is specifically set up to advocate for provisions to be made in the education system and elsewhere for the needs of gifted children.
Margaret explains the original genesis of the idea, “We were looking for something that we could bring into the classroom because we were getting a lot of requests through the website saying, “We want to know what this information is, we want to know what the characteristics are. What do we need to to look out for? We have [children with] this range of special abilities and we don’t know how to support them.” So they’re looking for practical solutions.”
She met with James and it was agreed that there would be a certain kind of synergy in combining their efforts and Bríd became involved through her participation on the GiftedKids.ie forums.
Margaret says, “I was very excited by the fact that you can use this technology to support the entire curriculum. You can link to all sorts of learning objectives.”
But as important as it is to acquire knowledge and practical skills the Gifted Kids Virtual World technology also acts as a vital communications tool for the children when they are away from the school.
Margaret points out, “That’s where it really helped the social skills because a lot of these kids find it hard to find a peer group within their school or even within their classroom.”
With the inbuilt messaging capability the children can still participate in the Gifted Kids Virtual World from their homes and continue collaborating on the various projects they are working on together.
We made a short video and you can see and hear the children describe for themselves how they interact with both the application and each other. It is only six minutes long and is a testament to the power that 3D technology can have if properly applied.
The pilot programme is expanding and very soon 20 schools in total will be involved. The software is made freely available to schools but sponsors are needed to pay for server and administration costs. 3D technology has moved from the gaming console to the classroom and is facilitating the education of our gifted children. One can only imagine the possibilities if it were made available for all our children.
There is also a flythrough video of the 3D environment in Gifted Kids Virtual World available for viewing here.
Margaret and James would like to offer a special thanks to Social Entrepreneurs Ireland for their part in helping to make the Gifted Kids Virtual World project possible.