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Teaching in a Virtual Environment

Leigh Hall

Note: This post was written by guest blogger Leigh Hall and it has ben reposted from her blog. Quick tip: check out her blog - it's chock full of thoughtful insight and tips from a teacher-trainer who thinks critically about her craft and knows how to write about it. Highly recommended for people interested in: blogging, writing, gamification, ed-tech.

As you can probably tell, I tend to be into how to use digital tools in my teaching. I’m also interested in how to teach in online/virtual environments. I teach in a masters program that is hybrid. This means that about 50% of the time we meet face to face and 50% of the time is supposed to be some sort of online/blended learning. There are any number of ways to approach this online/blended aspect. Today, I want to discuss one new tool I’m considering using in the fall.

Edorble is fairly new and (I think) still in beta mode as I write this. It is a 3-D virtual world. I learned about it because one of the founders (Gabe Baker) used to work for TES, and I’m a long time fan and user of Wikispaces. And so our paths eventually crossed.

Edorble is intended (though not entirely) to be used with educators.  I was able to download it and claim a world for myself without any issue. You can have additional worlds, but you have to have a separate email account for each. You design an avatar once you get in, and only people who have the room number can join. The world you claim is not just free and open to anyone who wanders in.


Once in the world, there is an amphitheater where you can come together as a group. In the theater, there is a screen and a blue circle in front of it. Whoever stands in the blue circle controls the screen, and you can show a number of things on that screen. You will see that there are specific sites already on the screen (You Tube for example). These sites are pre-loaded on, and you can’t change them or add to them. I think they are working on modifying that. Like I said – currently still in beta mode.

Now, how do people communicate? You talk. That’s it. In a way it’s just like being in a room with a bunch of people. If everybody talks at once you likely won’t hear anyone clearly. Students can also raise their hands.

There is also space in the world for students to breakout into small groups. I believe they are also going to be adding additional screens along the lines of what is in the theater. This way, students could be in small groups and look at something online together and discuss. When you are in your group – and in your own space – you will only hear what others in your space say. So if I’m in the theater, I will only hear people in the theater. If a group is outside and talking, I will not hear them. Just like real life.

What To Do With This Space?

This space brings about some new and interesting ways to interact with students, particularity if you have online or hybrid courses. I haven’t totally figured out what to do with it yet. On a very basic level, you could hold office hours in this space. You can meet a student in the theater and talk to that student while others wait outside. Those outside the theater won’t hear your conversation.

You could give a lecture in this space or have students give presentations. This is good if you meet 100% online and need some time to come together.

I also see this as beneficial to a program at large. You could have one room for a program. You could host discussions/meet-ups in this space as well as guest speakers for your program.

Students can hang out in small groups within the world.

One thing I can envision – just off the top of my head – is using this as a space to highlight something called Teach Me How. This started last fall. The idea is that one of my students – classroom teachers – could share with us a particular method that had been used with K-12 students. They would be teaching the other teachers how to engage in this practice and lead a short discussion about it. Edorable could be a great venue for this. We could host Teach Me How sessions in that space, and it could be a great way to have multiple classes come together (if I could figure that out logistically).

Anyways, I wanted to use today’s post to highlight Edorble for you. I’m looking forward to thinking about how to use it in my hybrid courses this fall, and I can’t wait to share what happens!