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Friday, May 7, 2010

Educate with Blue Mars

--Jasmine Spearing, Marketing Associate

According to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, “more than a quarter of U.S. students drop out of high school, and more than a third of our high school graduates are unprepared for college or a career.”

We live in an age of instant communication and readily-accessible technology. The question is, how can these tools be brought into the classroom in a responsible way that allows students to gain the knowledge conveyed through traditional education, while harnessing the potentials of technology?

The Hawaii Technology Academy might just have an answer. Their middle school students designed a City for Blue Mars based on the traditions of an ancient Hawaiian village. Students made a replica of an ancient outrigger canoe, and designed a game to teach other students how to sail it. They also recreated the village living and farming lifestyle of early Hawaiian cultures, complete with authentic costumes and underwater wildlife. The HTA students collaborated with middle school students in Japan and Singapore on the project.

This kind of immersive learning teaches students traditional math and science skills, as well as history and social studies, while at the same time incorporating valuable technical skills such as web design, graphic design, and media literacy. It provides a place for students to not only learn about ancient cultures, and contemporary civilizations, but to interact with them in an engaging 3D environment that they have created themselves.

Other educational institutes also taking advantage of Blue Mars technology as a way to inspire students to be creative and think outside the normal parameters of education. The University of Hawaii offers a course in 3D architecture based on the Blue Mars platform. Last year the UH students created a Blue Mars City based on Korean culture, inspired by Kim Inhoo’s poem about the 15th century Soswaewon Garden. The result was a City combining computer-modeling and cutting-edge graphics with traditional elements of ancient Korean culture.

There has been some discussion among Blue Mars members about the possibility of holding in-world language classes, and using Blue Mars as a meeting place for online virtual world university classes. The ideas are out there, and we have the software. Now it’s up to our Blue Mars members to recognize the possibilities that this platform can provide, and to take full advantage of the 3D environment.

So what does this mean for the future? A world where students are exposed to different languages and cultures and interact with students all over planet Earth on a daily basis? An educational system that allows for creativity, and teaches important marketable skills, as well as traditional subjects? Students who can incorporate the technology that is second-nature to them, and use it as a tool to teach themselves, and others?

We need to use these new tools to engage students in their school work, and to instill in them a life-long love of learning. Classrooms have traditionally been a place for forward thinking and innovation. With the use of Blue Mars technology, and the determination of people who see the endless possibilities for the evolution of education, they could be again.

For more information about Hawaii Technology Academy, and uses for Blue Mars in education, visit:

Share your thoughts and suggestions on the Education in Blue Mars topic on the Blue Mars Forum.

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