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Rejuvenation Island: Enriching the Learning Journey through Immersion in Virtual Restorative Environments - Ascilite 2012
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Rejuvenation Island: Enriching the Learning Journey through Immersion in Virtual Restorative Environments - Ascilite 2012

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Immersive natural environments provide a means of restoration for adults and may present benefits for pre-service teachers who are unfamiliar with the natural world. The use of restorative virtual …

Immersive natural environments provide a means of restoration for adults and may present benefits for pre-service teachers who are unfamiliar with the natural world. The use of restorative virtual environments could be extended to schools in urban areas in particular, allowing pupils and their teachers to undertake field trips, and to relax in a calming and restorative context. This paper reports on a project that investigates the potential restorative benefits of immersion in simulated natural environments in virtual worlds. A cohort of pre-service teachers were taken into the simulated environment and reported that the island produced strong positive feelings in respondents, akin to being in a natural environment. However, it was also clear that a lack of familiarity with virtual environments diminishes the beneficial impacts of this immersion.

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  • 1. Rejuvenation Island: Enriching the Learning Journey through Immersion in Virtual Restorative Environments Helen Farley, Australian Digital Futures Institute Janice K. Jones, Faculty of Education Angela Murphy, Australian Digital Futures Institute University of Southern Queensland ● Toowoomba ● Queensland ● AustraliaIntroductionThis study seeks to evaluate the restorative impact of pre-service teachers‟ online engagement in a simulated natural virtualworld environment. Immersive natural environments provide a means of restoration for adults and may present benefits forpre-service teachers who are unfamiliar with the natural world. The use of restorative virtual environments could beextended to schools in urban areas in particular, allowing pupils and their teachers to undertake field trips, and to relax in acalming and restorative context.Aims and Method FindingsAim of the study: was to determine whether immersion in a simulated As shown in figure 1, the results give rise to an anomaly: post immersion ,natural world environment would enhance the well-being of students by the level of reported tiredness and feelings of being worn out is lower,encouraging positive affective states and improving attentional fatigue. showing that the experience of immersion had led to a beneficial outcome. However, the reported level of irritation is higher post immersion as is theParticipants: 57 students participated in the study. The majority were ability to make well balanced decisions, concentrate, foresee implications ofundergraduate pre-service teachers. A small number (n=3) were complex situations and pay attention to long lectures. Respondents‟ writtenpostgraduate students undertaking Masters level study in education. Group and statistical responses signal that a lack of familiarity with the environment1 (n=9) undertook the survey and immersion experience in an on-campus may have been the cause for this.computer studio. Group 2 (n=47) undertook the same experience online andat a distance from the campus. Responses to open questions probing for more insight on experiences, however, indicated that the immersive experience had led to enhancedProcess: Participants were requested to complete Hartig, Kaiser and feelings of wellbeing: “The beach and waves were really calming”.Bowler‟s (2003) affective and behavioural measures of attentional fatigue Responses indicated that the island produced strong positive feelings infor which participants selected answers on a 7 point Likert scale at the respondents, akin to being in a natural environment: “The experiencebeginning and at the end of the intervention. Participants commenced the allowed an escape from stresses of real life. Had a calming influence and Istudy by completing an online version of the inventory. After completion of forgot about day to day worries while in the virtual world.”the questions they were requested to spend 30 minutes on RejuvenationIsland in Second Life, walking around and exploring or sitting quietly in a However, other feedback made it clear that a lack of familiarity with virtualfavourite place. On completion of this this period participants returned to environments presents an obstacle and diminishes the beneficial impacts ofthe survey and completed the inventory again. Ethics clearance for the immersion, with one participant noting: “I found it frustrating and verystudy was granted, and all participants gave informed consent. unrelaxing. For students who are familiar with this type of experience it may be restorative”. A third response indicated another layer of complexity: that the experience of exploring and feeling alone in a strange place may bring to the surface anxieties related to perceived „real world dangers‟ “…at first I felt relaxed with the sounds and everything but soon afterward (10mins) I became very anxious, I didnt want to explore.” Conclusions Immersive natural environments provide a means of restoration for adults and may present benefits for pre-service teachers who are unfamiliar with the natural world. The use of restorative virtual environments could be extended to schools in urban areas in particular, allowing pupils and their teachers to undertake field trips, and to relax in a calming and restorative context. In today‟s classrooms where pupils with autism or attention difficulties find the classroom context disturbing, a Second Life retreat may offer a calming and restorative respite. For an immersive experience to be untrammeled by the impact of the unfamiliar, and by the transfer of „real world‟ anxieties about being alone in a strange place, it is recommended that visitors be accompanied on their first visit, and supported until they become familiar with the navigation and interface of Second Life.Rejuvenation Island includes simulated flora, fauna and sounds of an Australian bush and beach environment. Sounds of crickets and birds, and the waveswashing onto a beach re-create a feeling of being in a real environment. Rivers host native catfish, the beach is inhabited by turtles, and a mixture of rocky andarid and rich eucalypt and grassland offer a range of experiences(http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/RejuveNation/76/197/22).ReferencesHartig, T., Kaiser F.G., & Bowler, P.A. (1997). Further development of a measure of perceived environmental restorativeness. Working paper No. 5, Institute forHousing Research, Uppsala University.