University, elementary schools partner in virtual world

Press release:  North Georgia Interns Develop 3D Virtual World Lessons to Engage Students

CUMMING, GA – Cell phones, iPods, online gaming and social networking have revolutionized American culture. To take advantage of this digital surge, the University of North Georgia and Forsyth County Schools have expanded their partnership to encourage the strategic use of the NOBLE virtual world to deliver immersive instruction to elementary students.

The partnership is based upon North Georgia’s innovative “professional development communities” model which is overseen by Dr. Jacqueline Leeper, Dr. Kellie Whelan-Kim, Dr. Alyssa Barnes, Dr. Sanghee Choi and Ms. Tracey Allen.

University students and their professors are placed into elementary schools in Forsyth County Schools in a two-year, full-immersion program that translates into at least 50 percent more field experience than the state requires for teacher certification.

Early childhood interns from the University of North Georgia. (Image courtesy Steve Mashburn.)

Student teachers even take their college courses at the public school, providing a more integrated experience that includes pre-planning activities and parent-teacher conferences.

As part of this multi-year program, senior elementary education majors will design at least one instructional unit using the NOBLE Virtual World. NOBLE (New Opportunities for Better Learning Environments) is a simulated world in which graphical representation of people, called avatars, communicate and interact with objects and other avatars in a realistic setting.

The potential of generating authentic learning experiences in the NOBLE world are endless. Students can take virtual field trips to Mars, Paris, or the Grand Canyon. They can fly into a giant model of an ear and explore the eardrum. They can reenact historical events like a Viking raid or the Lincoln-Douglas debates. They can role play characters from novels, experiment with different professions, conduct mock trials and interview famous people.

A marketplace scene in the NOBLE virtual world. (Image courtesy Steve Mashburn.)

In short, education is no longer dependent upon the physical constraints of time, space and resources. If a teacher can visualize an engaging instructional activity, it can be generated within the NOBLE world.

Steve Mashburn

“We have to reach today’s students where they live and for most of them that means using technology,” said Steve Mashburn, the Coordinator of Online Education for Forsyth County Schools. “It’s our hope that this new partnership with the University of North Georgia will inspire these interns to provide fun, engaging and practical learning experiences centered around virtual world technology once they are teachers on their own.”

Instructional units currently in development include:

The Lost Colony Learning Adventure – Students will explore several theories for the fate of the lost colony of Roanoke. Through this unit, students will strengthen their abilities to conduct research, solve mathematical equations and develop strong persuasive writing skills. The 3D objects in the virtual world include the colonists’ fort, Francis Drake’s ships and an Indian village. The developers of the Lost Colony Learning Adventure are Kayla Deak, Amanda Chafin, Beth Branham and Shelby Hobbs.

Survivor Learning Adventure – Students role play biologists who have been tasked with discovering why the turtles are dying on Turtle Island. They solve the problem by figuring out what factors of extinction are actually in play and how to eliminate these factors to ensure that the turtles survive. The 3D objects include the Turtle Race Game, oil rigs, city lights and non-playing characters that serve as information kiosks. The developers of the Survivor Learning Adventure are Dana Fisher, Jesi Wallace, Megan Barton, Haleigh Krauss and Shelby Mooney.

The Great Depression Learning Adventure – Student learn about the effects of the Great Depression and how the New Deal sought to improve conditions. Working collaboratively, students will acquire the appropriate background knowledge to role play Americans living through this time period. The 3D objects include a hobo camp beside railroad tracks, a Hooverville of shanties and Daddy Warbuck’s mansion. The developers of the Great Depression Learning Adventure are Bryanna Hamby, Jessica Hemphill, Laura Ospina and Shelley Pritchett.

The World War II Learning Adventure – In this five week unit, students will complete missions as an investigator of World War II topics. Each week will contain a NOBLE activity, A Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) activity and a literature circle activity. In-world builds include the USS Arizona, Times Square, the beach at Iwo Jima, Anne Frank’s house and a courthouse for putting Adolph Hitler on trial. Developers for the World War II Learning Adventure include Katelyn Adams, Amanda Martin, Courtney Segers and Ashton Simpson.

Once completed, these units, along with the 3D objects and files, will be available to teachers at no cost through the Association of Virtual World Educators, an international non-profit corporation dedicated to the promotion of virtual world instruction in K12 schools.

About the University of North Georgia

In January 2012 the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia elected to consolidate Gainesville State College and North Georgia College & State University effective in January 2013. Under the name of University of North Georgia, the consolidated entity will continue to educate Georgians through strong liberal arts, pre-professional, professional, and graduate programs in an environment of academic excellence. Learn more about the University of North Georgia at

About Forsyth County Schools

Forsyth County Schools, the ninth largest school system in Georgia, is recognized throughout the nation as a lighthouse district for utilizing technology to improve student achievement. Through strong collaboration between academics and technology, Forsyth County Schools continues to seek innovative ways to improve the teaching and learning experience while maintaining high expectations for performance. Recent initiatives include a “Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT)” program, the systemic use of a Learning Management System in face-to-face classrooms, and a strategic transition to digital content. Learn more about Forsyth County Schools at