Imagine learning math, English or science in world like the one in the movie Avatar.
Local teacher Gord Holden has surrounded himself in the world of virtual learning, and while the computer programs he uses may not be exactly like in Avatar, students are immersed in a virtual world for their studies.
The long-time Valley teacher is now teaching through Kelowna-based Heritage Christian Online School (HCOS) using programs like Quest Atlantis, Active Worlds and Thinking Worlds. He will speak at a meeting, hosted by HCOS, and provide information on this style of learning at the Salvation Army Community Church, at 1580 Fitzgerald Ave. on Tuesday. Various workshops and presentations about what the online school offers will happen from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m., and childcare will be available.
Holden said this style of learning is a prime example of 21st century learning, and although traditional learning through books is important, virtual learning can teach in ways text cannot.
“The virtual world can be and should be used to do things in ways that cannot be done through text,” said Holden. “Text will always be around and will always be necessary but if we can do experiential learning then the retention rates are going to be much higher.”
One example Holden gave was teaching students about wildlife management by allowing them to become virtual wolves in Yellowstone National Park where they hunted, scavenged, found mates and raised litters as they learned the facts.
Learning French by participating in a virtual French-Canadian community was another example Holden provided. Students learn the language by being immersed in French culture as they shop for household needs, meet for dinner, go to French movies with friends, ski, race cars, scuba dive in the town aquarium, visit art galleries, and a whole slew of other activities.
While Holden said HCOS has “values-based curriculum” and there may be some underlying Christian ideas, not all students who enrol are Christian — and in the examples of student work Holden demonstrated, one student did a project about Islam.
“It’s not like it’s a focus on Christianity; the focus is on the math and the reading and writing and all the rest of it,” said Holden. But, “definitely, I think that if people were against Christianity this probably isn’t for them.”
According to Holden, HCOS is popular with home-schooled students, but it is gaining interest for some public school students who may not be able to take a certain course at their school. Students can take everything they need to graduate, or as little as one course that they’re interested in.
In addition to working with over 8,000 kindergarten to Grade 12 students across B.C., HCOS also has the largest program for students with special needs in the province.
For more information, e-mail Gord Holden at email@example.com or call 250-334-3676. Check out www.immersivetechnology4learning.ning.com to see what some of the virtual worlds look like, or visit HOCS’s website at www.onlineschool.ca for more information on the school.