This blog is part of a special series in cooperation with instructional designer Craig Frehlich. It explores different types of teaching strategies and shows how they can be enriched and enabled with virtual spaces. Each blog is accompanied by an example space with complete lesson plans for students and teachers.
Some of my fondest memories growing up as a kid during the summertime in Canada revolved around a neighborhood game played with other children called “kick the can”. This multiplayer activity involved one person (or group of people) being “it” who had to guard the can which might be sitting in an open field or yard. Everyone else in the game runs off to hide. After a short count down, the person who is “it” must find and tag all participants before one of them kicks over the can. As players are tagged by the “it” person, they must sit in a holding zone or “jail”. If the can is knocked over before all the participants are “jailed” everyone captured is free to roam and continue playing.
Little did people know it at the time, but “kick the can” taught several life skills that have defined several people’s identities today as an adult. Trust, strategy, cooperation, leadership, and effective communication were just a few of the concepts that I embodied as a result of playing “kick the can”, a game that taught me essential “soft skills”.
The term “soft skills” was coined in the 1970’s by the US army and refers to non-technical skills related to both personal and interpersonal traits or behaviors. Examples of soft skills might be: communication, teamwork, empathy, stress management, conflict management, creativity, and adaptability. Schools are starting to realize that they can not just teach content related to subject disciplines in order for students to be successful beyond school.
The “soft skills” curriculum is becoming an important part of what teachers need to address in their classrooms. All teachers should be responsible for explicitly teaching these skills to ensure students have the capacity to succeed in the 21st century, an ever-changing world.
imedu offers 3-D learning spaces that can make soft skill practice and training easy to accomplish. With a massive library of 3-D objects or assets, students can be presented with manipulatives that allow them to grab, manipulate, and think more deeply about how they connect to learning outcomes related to soft skills within a lesson. When students are given the opportunity and affordance to interact with 3-D learning assets in a lesson, they often develop a stronger emotional attachment and higher levels of engagement.
For example, the sample learning space “Stranded on the Moon”, challenges students to think critically and work cooperatively with others. In this experience, they are presented with the scenario of crash landing a fantastic moon environment. In order to survive they must collect objects that have been scattered across the surface. Some of these objects are more essential for survival than others. Once they have collected their top 10 assets, they need to partner up with others to negotiate their lists into one final list. This experience challenges students to practice interpersonal “soft skills” related to how to work and communicate in a collaborative team.
Today’s students have grown up with technology. They are what we might call “digital natives”. Growing up surrounded by technologies like the internet, iPads, and iPhones have created a unique persona that should be taken into account when designing learning experiences. These students approach the world differently. Digital native students want experiences that can be: customized and personalized, scrutinized by having the ability to see behind and scenes, have an element of play and entertainment, have quick access to information with very little waiting time, and have collaboration built to form and craft relationships. A tall order! Such demands require new powers of design to ensure learning is personalized, interrogative, entertaining, efficient, and collaborative. However, 3-D learning spaces like the ones offered by imedu can give digital natives the experiences they crave.
To see a full example of this teaching strategy:
Stranded on the moon