Teacher training in the use of a three-dimensional immersive virtual world: Building understanding through first-hand experiences.
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This study offers recommendations and a model for other teacher educators who are interested in training teachers in the use of three-dimensional (3D) immersive virtual worlds (IVWs) for their own teaching. Twelve special education teachers collaboratively explored the usability of Second Life (SL) for special education by completing a full inquiry cycle to develop the ability to make informed decisions about the affordances and challenges of virtual world teaching and to help identify effective components for virtual worlds teacher training. Ten educational SL islands were explored critically. Mixed-methods data analysis and triangulation were based on the analysis and synthesis of a preliminary survey, a mid-reflection after several virtual explorations, the collaborative analysis of an existing SL lesson plan, the collaborative development of a SL lesson plan, a post-reflection, and a post-survey. Several key benefits of 3D IVWs for special education students emerged from the qualitative analyses, namely social skills practice, collaborative learning towards a joint goal with a competitive element, and increased motivation to participate, especially for topics that would otherwise be perceived as boring. The qualitative data informed the development of guidelines for virtual worlds teacher training and the elements of an ideal SL island designed for special education. The change of attitude towards the usability of virtual worlds in education as a result of the workshop was not statistically significant.