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DigiCULT
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Info
51
doing, they temporarily suspend their focus
on the physical world and enter the virtual
world as willing participants, dispelling
expectations of the normal conventions and
logic of reality, and creating a belief in the
virtual.
I
n order to create and sustain a believable
virtual world, the digital learning domain
must be sufficiently credible, compelling
and indeed enjoyable. Personalisation is an
important design element.The opportunity
that the virtual world provides for the cre-
ation of belief in the Victorian Poslett fami-
ly, for instance, contributes to engagement
with the objects from the collection and
the development of the key historical skills
of enquiry and empathy, and increasing the
users' historical understanding.
I
f the site is fun, as well as educational, it
has the chance of allowing users to
become immersed and deeply engaged
with the cultural materials.The intention is
that the users get so caught up in the site
that they do not realise they are undertak-
ing learning activities.
W
e encourage people to reflect on
their cultural experience and to
share their feelings, beliefs, knowledge, cre-
ativity and ideas with others.This is
achieved in a number of ways, though each
places an emphasis on the `C' in ICT. For
example, in RealCornwall, our users
become creators of cultural artefacts
through the contribution of memories,
tales, sayings and so on.The users then are
both consumers and producers of culture in
a true learning community.Within the site
design we have attempted to blend user
contributions seamlessly into the site with-
out differentiation from in-house content.
As with most of our sites, learning path-
ways are not overt, though all the user con-
tribution forms are in fact writing frames
designed to support the adult literacy core
curriculum at entry levels 1 and 2, and
ICT literacy.
T
he virtual envi-
ronment increases
learning by allowing
the user to explore and
manipulate the object
and engage with both
its originating context
and its owners. In
Virtual Victorians it is
possible to give a magic
lantern show, while
photographs, archive
material and the daily
journals of the `Virtual
Victorians' themselves
help to place the
objects in a wider context. In Burma, users
can watch a shadow puppet play, or create
their own, accompanied by music com-
posed and recorded on the Burmese
orchestra. It is essential that these activities
are enjoyable and provide a rich user expe-
rience. Such elements capture the imagina-
tion and interest of the user, promote fuller
engagement with the subject, and stimulate
and aid learning.
A
lthough the projects provide resources
for lifelong learning, where appropri-
ate they are carefully tailored to the learn-
ing requirements of the English National
Curriculum and QCA schemes of work.
Not only does this maximise the learning
potential of the projects within formal edu-
cation, our research has gathered evidence
to suggest that it also encourages the use of
the resources by pupils and parents to sup-
port formal learning and facilitates shared
family learning.
S
amuel Taylor Coleridge argued that our
response to drama is characterised by a
`willing suspension of disbelief '
49
and thus
involves the very same ingredient of belief
that is essential to everyday emotion. Our
work has led us to believe that in certain
digital interactive exchanges, children, and
adults, are willing to suspend disbelief in order
to engage with the virtual world. In so
A
t the heart of all our work is a learn-
er-centred approach.We endeavour to
make the learning experience personal to
each learner. In achieving this we offer
various opportunities for the learner to
engage with objects, originating contexts
and peoples in a meaningful and enjoyable
way, either through hands-on virtual activ-
ities such as the Virtual Victorians e-toys,
through opportunities to interact with
other people, through publication of users'
own material on the site, by participation
in a series of experimental Webcasts or
simply through sending your friend an e-
card of the Looe Fishermen's Choir.
C
entral to our work is the creation of
the `value added' experience, rather
than merely content and information
delivery.The virtual representations of the
objects need to be more satisfying and illu-
minating than mere two-dimensional rep-
resentations, which cannot replicate the
quality of the physical experience of the
original artefact.Technology is used both
to provide an opportunity to explore the
functionality of the artefacts and to add a
personal dimension, which extends
engagement with the object through per-
son-to-object interaction and person-to-
person interaction.
Using the building bricks e-toy.
Tiv
e
r
ton and Mid Dev
on Museum
T
r
ust and the Univ
ersity of Ex
eter
,
2003
49 S. Coleridge, Biographia Literaria (London: Rest Fenner, 1817).