Stop Innovating in Schools. Please.
Will Richardson

Indeed, indeed. Gets tiresome hearing people link innovation to Chromebooks that restrict the freedom of students, smartboards that become glorified blackboards, and “virtual classrooms” that are simply the text, the pictures, and the voices digitized. I almost get ill when I hear 98% of educators talk about their 21st century approach. Almost invariably it’s just an iteration of how they were taught, buoyed by the use of some technology.

The fact of the matter is that no matter how hard I try to push the envelope, it’s the students who are better equipped to pursue a 21st century education. I’m not considered to be a slouch in this area. I’ve many awards under my belt, and I speak at educational conferences around the world, but frankly, anything of value that I’ve learned came from listening to my students.

What I’ve learned could play out in a number of different ways across the educational spectrum, but working in DL, the ideal medium for my students are the 3D interactive virtual environments that they used to use rather than doing their homework. Now they use them to do their homework. No, I don’t use Second Life, World of Warcraft, or even Minecraft. For those that care, the adult content, violence, and “Lord of the Flies” atmosphere is not a positive and appropriate direction to point them in.

AW3DU provides an incredible opportunity for both students and educators. There are many, many stories, but allow me one. Two First-Nations brothers, both completely turned off of school, were sent to me. When I discovered that the one passion that seemed to remain was for finding a way to record their heritage, I gave them a world to build it in. 3 months later they had built their ancestral village to scale and imbued it with the stories, the history, the music and art, and their language. 3 months later they presented at a conference of IT specialists and got THREE standing ovations. I had to tell them what that was, as they had no idea what was happening. Encouraged by what they had accomplished, they became authors and human-rights activists. Here’s one of them telling one of their stories.

I continue to learn and grow, and so do my students. :)