by Matthew Worwood

Published: 9 years ago

The 10 Cube Challenge: Using Virtual Worlds to Foster Creative Thinking

In recent articles I have written a little about my exploration of using 3D Virtual Worlds as an effective online learning environment. They’re obviously engaging at the beginning, but once the novelty of being able to fly, walk on water, and pass through walls disappears, students are basically sitting and looking at something that they realize isn’t a computer game, even if it looks like one.

Digital technologies provide a great opportunity for students to develop skills in creativity, primarily because when they are integrated into a project-based learning environment (or challenge-based learning environment for us Apple people), they demand that students demonstrate their knowledge of the content by inventing something new, but as educators we need to make sure we use them in meaningful ways that enhance the learning experience in the classroom.

We at the Center for 21st Century Skills have been contemplating their best use, and as part of a 9th grade digital foundation course we are using them to teach students the basics of 3D modeling. However, as part of my desire to use digital media to teach creativity, I have integrated the teaching of skills associated with the phenomena, as identified by E. Paul Torrance.

Recently, an article that illustrates our success in this endeavor was accepted for the inaugural issue of The Journal of Immersive Education, which will be published in September. This new journal, available online, has some cool features as presented at this years Immersive Education Summit.

The soon to be published article, written with Frank LaBanca EdD, provides an insight into The 10 Cube Challenge as an example. The activity was designed to introduce some of the basic concepts of 3D modeling, particularly demonstrating an understanding of the X,Y, Z axis, while replicating the shape of an existing object using exactly 10 cube, or cuboid shaped prims.

I have referenced E. Paul Torrance’s work in a few articles. He’s sometimes referenced as the Father of Creativity, and has published many works on the teaching of creativity in education. As part of Torrance’s study into creativity he identified a creativity skills set by studying a group of individuals who’s creative accomplishments when beyond expectations. Torrance was able to identify specific characteristics associated with creativity, which were common in all the subjects. Eventually, he adapted these characteristics and used them to teach creativity through the Torrance Incubation Model of Teaching and Learning (I’ve written another article that references this model in more detail).

The creativity skill that we referenced in The 10 Cube Challenge was:

Be Original: getting away from the obvious; breaking away from habit bound thinking; creating novel, different or unusual ideas.

I’m happy to say, thanks to the tremendous hard work of the teachers that piloted the challenge, I think most of the students demonstrated not only the content skill, but also the creativity skill. More importantly, I think this was achieved because of the environment that we were able to establish using our 3D Virtual World called IVCS2. Students were directed to an exhibition area, which contained 90 exhibition booths for our seven schools. Students were instructed to select any available booth, and this met that it was possible that they were developing their model next to students from other schools. In the end I calculated that about 70-75 of these booths had been used, which means about 80% of students in our 9th grade digital foundations course participated in the challenge in one way of the other.

Now when you think about modeling something using cubes or cuboids, you think about man-made objects that are squared or rectangular in shape. Ladders, beds, chairs, tables, pyramids, stairs – but these don’t meet the identified creativity skill of being original. Without studying this in depth, roughly 25-30 of the models met these expectations, and these models were primarily created in the first few weeks of the challenge. To me it appeared that only after a few students went beyond expectations of the content, and produced models such as a piano, swing, and tank, did we start seeing the majority breaking habit-bound thinking. It seemed that working in the same online environment raised the bar, especially when we introduced an award. Eventually we ended up with a medieval guillotine, a giraffe, a Tie Fighter, and even a model of Indiana Jones running from a huge boulder.

Look out for the article, titled – The 10 Cube Challenge: Using Virtual Worlds to Foster Creative Thinking. I’ll provide a link when it is available.

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