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NTNU and Japanese Scholars Co-organize Emerging Technology Workshops

Department of Technology Application and Human Resource Development (TAHRD) along with the Office of International Affairs at National Taiwan Normal University conducted a Virtual Worlds teaching workshop on 4 February in cooperation with Professor Irina Kuznetcova from Akita International University in Japan. The workshop, organized by fourth-year TAHRD student Yi-Yao Hsu and assistant Chia-Ju Chou, was a continuation of the ICT workshop previously held by TAHRD for the School of Teacher Education. In this five-hour workshop, participants learned practical applications of Unity, a game development engine, and the theoretical foundations of integrating virtual worlds created in Unity for teaching purposes. Participants were tasked with designing a lesson plan integrating pedagogical theories and technology. Yi-Yao Hsu and Prof. Kuznetcova noted that the workshop was quite challenging as most participants had no experience with Unity. 

At the beginning of the workshop, Prof. Kuznetcova introduced the basic theories of Educational Technology to the participants. In her opening statement, she said, “The future of Taiwan depends on how effectively Taiwanese people can use technology,” stressing the need to think about how to cultivate technology literacy in education. To conceptualize technology integration in the classroom, teachers can use the framework of Technological, Pedagogical, and Content Knowledge, i.e., TPACK. After explaining the main tenets of the TPACK framework, Prof. Kuznetcova introduced three theoretical perspectives related to educational technology, including Lev Vygotsky's Zone of proximal development, David Kolb's experiential learning, and George Simmens' connectivism (Figure 1). The theoretical part of the workshop concluded with the information on the concepts of Virtual Worlds, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, and Unity for making the above-mentioned environments. 

In the hands-on part of the workshop, Yi-Yao Hsu introduced the basic operation and project structure of working with Unity. He guided the participants to create Virtual Worlds on their own (Figure 2). He said that the goal of this workshop was mainly to help participants understand the systematic use of Unity for Virtual World projects (in this case - interactive 360-degree scenes). Although the participants had difficulty navigating Unity at the beginning, they had a positive reaction to this experience. 

In the last part, the participants were asked to design a lesson which allowed them to put the knowledge they had learned into practice. 

In sharing his design, student Ji-heng Lu from the Department of Geography said that he realized more about the application of Virtual Worlds through this workshop’s training. He suggested that Unity can also be used in the teaching of the planning of urban geography. However, Lu concluded, he is looking forward to more advanced workshops in order to generate more suitable teaching materials. 

TAHRD graduate students Tsu-Hsien Sung and Mei-Wen Lin demonstrated their lesson plan solution. Tsu-Hsien Sung said that planning the entire teaching activity using the TPACK framework and integrating different teaching materials through Unity allows students to develop relevant technological literacy and achieve real-time interaction, learning, and feedback. This learning process improves students’ technological literacy. Mei-Wen Lin stated that this workshop was a fantastic experience through which she not only gained a basic understanding of Unity but also was able to engage with students from other departments to come up with practical teaching solutions based on established theoretical frameworks. 

Prof. Kuznetcova provided feedback on the lesson designs that the participants created during the activity. She emphasized the integration of technology with the purpose of providing a safe space for students to experiment and experience certain phenomena. In all presented cases, she invited the audience to think about how to use Unity and virtual worlds to encourage exploration, social interaction, and reflective thinking - critical aspects of the learning process. 

At the end of the workshop, all the participants took a group photo together (Figure 3). 

As the workshop’s assistant, Chia-Ju Chou stated that, due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, NTNU could only communicate with foreign schools online and exchange projects became limited. Now that the pandemic is easing, foreign scholars can once again be invited to interact and communicate with students in person. During the exchange, lecturers can directly observe student reactions to know which educational knowledge the latter do not understand. And lecturers can ask Yi-Yao Hsu to provide further explanation about it in Chinese, so the students from other departments can more smoothly grasp the knowledge and theories related to educational technology. Technology has become inseparable from everyday life. We hope this workshop can introduce different ways of thinking to students as they are designing their teaching methods and equip them with the ability to use technology practically in their teaching to improve their pedagogical impact. 

The School of Teacher Education was a great support by providing funding and administrative resources as well as assisting in a previous information and communication technology workshop, which facilitated this international collaboration workshop. The Office of International Affairs also provided partial financial assistance.