In Spring 2010 MissionV took off for the first time in a pilot programme based in Gaelscoil Eoghan Uí Thuarisc, Carlow when five students logged on to their 16 acre digital desert island. This was the first time that virtual worlds technology was used to support the Irish primary school curriculum in a learning support setting. Here, they learned to model and programme in 3D using Scratch and by the end of the first phase of the project had built a complex “city in the sky”, had recreated replicas of the Castledermot High Crosses and had enjoyed an online visit by award winning children’s author Bob Burke. Learning Support Teacher, has been teaching small groups of exceptionally able children at the Carlow Gaelscoil for the past number of years and was interested in using this type of technology to provide enrichment material for her current group of students:
“In the past few years, our exceptionally able students have done things as diverse as building a Morse code machine, creating powerpoint presentations on the Famine, written their own novels and researched and demonstrated scientific experiments to their classmates. Sometimes, I felt the children were doing projects or tasks almost to please me, rather than for themselves. I was delighted to be included in this pilot where the children could work on what they wanted and on something truly challenging. I am not a techno-wizard, I don’t even have an ECDL, so by taking this on, I felt I would be able to say to any teacher that if I could do it, anyone could.”
In the second phase of MissionV 20 National Schools (including the original pilot school of Gaelscoil Eoghain Uí Thuairisc Carlow) had access to a 16 acre secure virtual island where up to 10 students from each participating school were able to connect, create and collaborate in an immersive 3D learning environment for a period of twelve months. They used geometric building tools to collaboratively build 3D replicas of real world and fantasy structures and programmed those objects using Scratch to generate a fully interactive world powered by their own software. They communicated to plan their projects via their digital character or avatar making this a truly immersive and engaging experience.
The 20 schools chosen, under criteria set by the NCTE, were representative of primary schools nationwide, with a mix of patrons, large and small school communities, rural and urban locations and with a special emphasis on schools with DEIS status. The project had positive effects on social inclusion particularly for those children from disadvantaged areas and give these children an opportunity to develop their talents, learn 21st century skills and look to the future.