Syllabus for EDTECH 597: Teaching Mathematics in Virtual Worlds

This is the Spring 2010 syllabus. The version for Fall 2010 will be coming soon at the same address. Ute Frenburg is projected to be the TA in the Fall class, which will be modified to reflect the experience of the Spring class. The flyer for the new class is here.

Title:  EDTECH 597 -- Teaching Mathematics in Virtual Worlds

Instructor Name:  M. Randall Holmes (Annie Jeffery will be TA)

Contact Information/Office Hours:  Holmes office MG240A, email, Holmes's SL avatar Leslie Beaumont -- inworld IMs to Leslie Beaumont go to email.   Office hours will be held in Second Life at a time to be arranged and on campus if there are on campus participants. Annie Jeffery (inworld MissAnnie Ducatillon) will be TA.

Course Description and Prerequisites:   3 credits.  This is an experimental course exploring the possibility of mathematics instruction in virtual worlds, primarily in Second Life.  Class sessions will be conducted in Second Life (two hour synchronous sessions each week, provisionally 3-5 SLT Thursdays, but this may change), with some investigation of other software options.   Both opportunities and difficulties in the communication of mathematical knowledge in 3D online environments will be explored.

Familiarity and comfort with mathematics to the level of high school geometry, algebra and trigonometry is required; the degree of mathematical maturity required of a high school mathematics teacher would be better.  Calculus may appear in demonstration lessons (but I would not say that knowledge of calculus is prerequisite)   An introduction to vectors in three dimensional space (without calculus) would be useful.

Requirements include access to a computer capable of running Second Life (this imposes requirements both on hardware and on one's Internet connection) and the ability to meet with the class for synchronous sessions in SL.  It will be advisable to have an audio headset since SL voice may be used.

Prerequisite Second Life skills (some of these will be reviewed in class):
• Use of camera controls
• Ability to fly, walk, and teleport
• Knowledge of communication tools (IM and chat)
• Basic building skills (create prims, add textures and content)
• Basic inventory management (can find items, wear clothing, make a notecard)
• It is recommended that participants have at least 15-20 hours of prior participation in Second
Life before the course begins.  Please note that an account is free and these skills can be acquired prior to the start of the class relatively easily if one is interested in this class and new to virtual worlds.  Feel free to contact the instructor if you seek assistance with this:  the instructor is aware that the SL orientation process can be a bit annoying, and can help to provide a better experience.

Course Materials (including hardware/software requirements):   Participants need a computer and internet connection capable of running Second Life (and an audio headset if SL voice is used).  The easiest way to test this is to go to, set up an account (this is free) and try running the software.  See

Please note this important disclaimer:  "Second Life'" (with its abbreviation "SL'") is a trademark of Linden Labs, which operates this virtual world.  Second Life is a general-purpose environment: students entering this environment may encounter adult content, commercial solicitations, etc., which they may find annoying or offensive.  Boise State assumes no liability for such experiences. Linden Labs rates sims on content (PG/Mature/Adult). There is no reason that a visit to an Adult sim would be relevant to this class. No student will be required to visit a Mature sim (PG alternatives will be available), though it should be noted that a Mature rating does not actually imply the presence of any potentially offensive content, and if there is any potential for offense in a sim of which the instructor is aware, students will be specifically advised. Students, faculty and staff are expected to follow Second Life Terms of Service.

Course documents, assignments and asynchronous communication between the instructor and students and between students will be hosted on the Ed Tech department's Moodle site (this is a change, the syllabus originally said Blackboard here). The EdTech Moodle site is at : if you go to Moodle tutorials there is a section for students. You should actually have an account already if you are in this class, as the tutorial explains, but you can also create one. I will send you the enrollment key for this class in email.

Course Objectives:

Students will explore literature on teaching in virtual worlds in general and what resources there are on the teaching of mathematics and related subjects in particular.  Students will be assigned an active role in looking for literature related to the course topic.

Students will explore resources related to mathematics which are found in Second Life and other relevant online resources.  Again, students will be assigned an active role in looking for such resources

Students will prepare and deliver instruction in mathematics at different levels in Second Life:  this is intended to include the elementary (K-6) level and the higher level of high school or early undergraduate instruction.  This will include preparation of  lessons and design of instructional objects in the Second Life environment.  Students will take the student role in instruction designed by other students and assess its effectiveness.

There will be some discussion of the mathematical underpinning of Second Life itself (and of 3D online worlds in general), and of the opportunities that the mathematical nature of the environment might (or might not) give in teaching mathematics in the environment.  Note in this connection that the mathematical prerequisites for the course (stated above) are limited, though a student with better mathematics background might be able to use this knowledge in an individual project.

Students will discover opportunities and difficulties associated with teaching in this environment in general and specific opportunities and difficulties related to the teaching of mathematics or related subjects.

Major Assignments and Schedule:

Grading Policy and Grading Scale:

The following components make up your grade:

The structure shown above is subject to change in its details.  A = 90-100 percent of available points, B = 80-89 percent, C = 70-79 percent,  D = 60-69 percent, F = < 60 percent.

Plus/minus grades will be awarded only under exceptional circumstances:  no point score in itself earns a plus/minus grade.

Course Policies

Procedures -

CommunicationI read my email constantly and respond promptly:  my email is or  You can IM Leslie Beaumont inworld; if I am not on, your IMs will go to e-mail.  I can be reached by telephone at (208)426-3011 (my office) or at home (208)345-2899 -- please do not call before 9 am MST or after 11 pm MST.  If you contact me, you should expect a response within a few hours at most.

Expectations of Conduct Students will be expected to behave respectfully toward one another, the instructor, and guests of or visitors to the class. This includes but is not restricted to recognizing the rights of class participants to represent themselves as they wish in SL, staying on topic (especially when called to order by the instructor or a teaching assistant), and not interrupting (especially with irrelevant content) when someone else has the virtual “floor”. SL is a fun environment and can be distracting; we are not planning to be grimly intent but we do intend to stay on track.

Posting of AssignmentsMajor assignments will be posted at least one week in advance of the assignment due date.

Assignment Submissions  -- Most assignments in this class are delivered "live" in Second Life or other computer environments.  Where this is not the case (as for example with a paper), electronic submissions to my e-mail are appropriate.  See below for a discussion of timely assignment submission.

Feedback/grades –  Assignments will be graded promptly (well within the department mandated interval of one week).  A student's current standing in the course will always be available on request from the instructor, and will be supplied privately to each student from time to time.

Late assignments –  The instructor disclaims any consistent policy on late delivery of assignments, other than that no assignment will be accepted after the end of the course.  The instructor may accept a late assignment as if turned in on time (this is more likely the first time or in the presence of an excellent reason for lateness).  The instructor may penalize an assignment for lateness or refuse to accept it at all, at his entire discretion.  It is best to turn in your assignments on time.  If you are aware in advance that you will have to turn an assignment in late, please communicate with me:  this increases the likelihood of an accommodation.  Please note that attendance at the synchronous sessions is an essential part of the course and missing class is as serious in its effects as turning assignments in late.

Technical Difficultieson occasion, you may experience problems with accessing Moodle or class files located within Moodle, with your Internet service, and/or other computer related problems. Do make the instructor aware if a technical problem prevents you from completing coursework.

BroncoMail -

Academic Honesty all students are required to abide by Boise State University's Student Code of Conduct on academic dishonesty. Assignments completed must be your original work and cannot be used in other courses in the EdTech program.

Reasonable Accommodations - Any student who feels s/he may need accommodations based on the impact of a disability should contact me privately to discuss your specific needs. You will also need to contact the Disability Resource Center at 208-426-1583 located in the Administration Building, room 114 to meet with a specialist and coordinate reasonable accommodations for any documented disability.

Conceptual Framework

College of Education - The Professional Educator

 Boise State University strives to develop knowledgeable educators who integrate complex roles and dispositions in the service of diverse communities of learners. Believing that all children, adolescents, and adults can learn, educators dedicate themselves to supporting that learning. Using effective approaches that promote high levels of student achievement, educators create environments that prepare learners to be citizens who contribute to a complex world. Educators serve learners as reflective practitioners, scholars and artists, problem solvers, and partners.

Department of Educational Technology Mission
The Department of Educational Technology supports the study and practice of facilitating and improving learning of a diverse population by creating, using, managing, and evaluating appropriate technological processes and resources. Believing technology is a tool that enhances and expands the educational environment, we promote the use of current and emergent technologies for teaching and learning in a dynamic global society. Educational technologists are leaders and innovators, serving in institutions of higher education, public or private school settings, federal, state, or local educational agencies, and educational organizations in the private sector.