Beyond the Game: Quest Atlantis as an Online Learning Experience for Gifted Elementary Students

Jackie Gerstein

Abstract


Quest Atlantis (QA) is a learning and teaching project that uses a 3D virtual environment to immerse children, ages 8-15, in educational tasks. It allows users to travel to virtual places to perform educational activities known as Quests. The core elements of QA are: 1) a 3D multi-user virtual environment (MUVE), 2) inquiry learning Quests and unit plans, 3) a storyline involving a mythical Council and a set of social commitments, and 4) a globally-distributed community of participants (Barab, Arici, & Jackson, 2005). These inherently engaging environments are natural motivators for this age-level student, who can be considered members of the Club Penguin generation. To determine the perspectives of the users, themselves, a survey was conducted with a group of 35 gifted elementary students. The results, gathered through both closed and open-ended questions, identified the strengths and limitations of this media as a viable pedagogy for teaching more traditional content area subjects. Teacher observations of student behavior both in the real life classroom and in the online environment present additional insights how digital natives engage in and interact with this media. Implications for using virtual worlds such as Quest Atlantis for distance learning of upper elementary students are proposed.

Keywords


virtual learning; elementary students; online learning; virtual worlds; Quest Atlantis

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