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This lesson idea was inspired by an old movie reel about BoysTown . It occurred to me that taking students into a virtual world to collaborate on a
creative problem -solving activity would give them an immersive learning experience which harkens back to what it was like to live in BoysTown during
the last century. Active learning builds the skills which employers and educational policy makers predict today͛s students will need to be successful in
the ͚global workplace͛. ͚Soft͛ skills (i.e. generic talents and attitudes which cross occupational categories ) are highly valued by all employers. Although
specific job demands will change, the need for workers who have these abilities will endure.

Using the Expo 2010 event, in Shanghai, China, as a model, this lesson reuiqre students to create their own ͚virtual expo͛ in Second Life. Given the multicultural
nature of the district where I used to teach, the idea of having students here work in teams to create their own ͞better city, better life͟ is one I know they͛d find
engaging and would help them meet social justice goals of the school district.

 An inquiry-based math lesson was selected for this


PUZZLES, SPATIAL SENSE, AND PROBLEM SOLVING sample. In the BC Apprenticeship and Workplace Math
 program, there is a unit at each grade level (10-12) in
1) A ͚non-routine͛ (Shapiro, 1995) problem is a task which cannot be solved by simply which students use puzzles and gameplay to improve
applying memorized method or rule and which can be solved in more than one way. their skills of analysis, strategic thinking, and spatial
Becoming better at solving problems involves asking ͞how to͟ questions and sharing reasoning. Constructing in-world buildings is a unique way
ideas, as well as dreaming up, applying , and assessing different strategies. (WNCP, p.8) to meet these learning outcomes. Although the 5E͛s
lesson template can appear cluttered, it is an effective
(2) Analyzing puzzles and games during play improves ͞mathematical insight͟ and the
planning tool because it forces one to focus on concepts
  ability to and on the questions that the students can pursue rather
 u hold information in memory than on learning outcomes or achievement indicators.
u manipulate visual images One also must start ͚with the end in mind͛ and be very
u ͞evaluate the logic of arguments͟ clear about how the individual concepts dovetail together.
u ͞attack problems in potentially productive ways͟ (Shapiro).
This kind of learning experience also gives young people
(3) We learn not only when we find solutions but also when our ideas don͛t work out.
an opportunity to attach greater meaning and usefulness
(4) Learning in ͚real͛ situations (even virtual ones!) is more memorable. to math processes and concepts. Facility in math and
(a) How can ͞thinking in pictures͟ (p. 10) help a person become better at learning and mathematical thinking are highly valued in the workplace,
applying math skills and concepts? but too few students leave school with much experience
4 (b) What strategies and habits of mind used when solving puzzles or winning games in using math skills to make sense of the world or in the
 also apply to other problems and processes in math? words of Freda, a 9th grade student: ͞to defend your
(c) What is the difference between not knowing the answer and not having found it rights and realize the injustices around you͙͟ (͚mnyildiz͛,
2007, Slide 25).
yet? 
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1) Building in a virtual world blends puzzle solving Given that BC students meet these PLO͛s in grades 10, 11, > There is a vocabulary associated with in-
and game play with math skills. and 12, they could return to this world over three years. I world construction that the students will
like the idea of them taking ownership over their school͛s need to master.
2) Manipulating geometric ͚solids͛ (˜ ) which are in-world space. I see them becoming involved not only in (See glossary and Powerpoint)
the construction blocks of in-world buildings improves
the design and construction activities, but also in the
spatial sense and the ability to visualize alternative
governance of the community. The older students would
solutions.
mentor the younger ones acclimatizing them to their city͛s
3) Solving a puzzle or playing a game requires special culture. This is where the Boys Town model is
looking at the problem in a logical way to figure out helpful. I would like this to be a way to help them learn
how to meet the objective (Bateman, 2007, p.1). about self and community governance and respect. But
that is too much for the scope of this lesson, so those
4) Making a plan to improve your performance is objectives are simply mentioned here.
called ͚using a strategy͛.
1) Intercultural understanding can help build better cities
5) Some strategies are more effective than others.
and better lives.
2) The code of conduct for this project space puts personal
6) Visualizing the outcome of a plan is a strategy that
involves trying to see the logic behind the puzzle or safety and the safety and respect of others first at all times.
game (Bateman, p4). 3) By conducting yourself in accordance with the code of
conduct you are self-governing.
7) Geometric shapes are the building blocks of 4) A community that develops its own code of conduct
architectural design. accepts the responsibility for ensuring that everyone in the
community feels accepted and supported.
8) Managing a budget requires project planning. 5) One way to appreciate other peoples and cultures is to
ask questions in person and on the internet -- i.e. to do
9) Negotiating planning, design, construction, and
research and learn about how we are similar and different.
spending decisions with team members requires that
6) Data can be represented using graphics.
you be able to communicate ideas and substantiate
your claims. 7) Using Venn diagrams can make it easier to visualize
common and unique factors.
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There are a number of possible virtual venues for this kind of learning task: Reaction Grid, Active Worlds Educational Universe, Jokaydia grid, Skoolaborate, and
creating a ͚safe area͛ in the Second Life Main grid. Jokaydiagrid is a new open sim PG world being developed with middle and secondary school education in
mind. Clearly there are challenges to having students use Second Life for schoolwork which are not addressed as part of this lesson, but it͛s interesting to
speculate about what might be possible if the safety issues could be overcome.

Resources:

°  ˜

. www.thechinaway.com.  
       14 Feb. 2010. Web. 25 Sept. 2010.
<http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t02giLzaj4w>.
Bateman, Wayne A. "Visual Math Learning: Introduction."     °          . 2007. Web. 25 Sept. 2010.
<http://www.visualmathlearning.com/pre_algebra/chapter_0/chap_0.php>.
"Better City; Better Life." ˜

. Web. 25 Sept. 2010. <http://en.expo2010.cn/>.
         .      . Web. 25 Sept. 2010.
<http://www.tcm.com/mediaroom/index.jsp?cid=334325>.
Canada. British Columbia Ministry of Education.                  

   . 2008. Web. 25 Sept. 2010. <http://www.bced.gov.bc.ca/irp/pdfs/mathematics/WNCPmath1012/2008math1012wncp_intro.pdf>.
"Category:Glossary."   . Web. 25 Sept. 2010. <http://wiki.secondlife.com/wiki/Glossary>.
˜

  . www.expo.cn. Web. 25 Sept. 2010. <http://en.expo.cn/index.html#&c=home>.
'mnyildiz' "Teaching M & M's: Math and Multiculturalism."    . 2007. Web. 25 Sept. 2010. <http://www.slideshare.net/mnyildiz/producing-m-ms>.
 ˜       . Digital image.         . 2010. Web. 25 Sept. 2010. <http://www.iglucruise.com/oil-spill-
timeline>.
"Second Life Vocabulary."        ˜  . Help You Learn. Web. 25 Sept. 2010.
<http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:LeNmSxOjqY4J:www.help-you-
learn.com/ResearchPapers/Second%20Life%20Vocabulary.pptx Second Life Vocabulary&cd=3&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=ca&client=firefox-a>.


 ˜   .  
       12 Jan. 2009. Web. 25 Sept. 2010.
<http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BX_Wsh3MUpk>.
Shapiro, Phil. "The Educational Value of Sokoban Puzzles."  . Nov. 1995. Web. 25 Sept. 2010. <http://www.his.com/~pshapiro/about.ss.html>.