Handout with Information

Handout with Information

Hands building a world



World Builders



Expanding the Vision of the Possible

Elizabeth Anne Viau
Charter College of Education

California State University, Los Angeles
Los Angeles, California


What is World Builders? 

World Builders is a course leaping towards the future. It is designed to bring people together with an interesting vision, to focus their minds on the aquisition of knowledge in the context of critical thinking and playful speculation, to provide, in the context of technology, a playground and a construction set for expanding minds.

In this course, which is coming into being out on the web, students design planets from the stellar dust through the emergence of plants and animals in balanced ecological communities. Their planets are posted on the web for all the world to share. The web site provides a rich list of web resources for the students to explore in each lesson, as well as lesson material, questions, and supporting science information.

World Builders is a social experience that brings people together. The sense of ownership and the vision of the product engage the emotions as well as the mind. The task is challenging, and requires a combination of talents very rarely found in one individual. Each person in the group becomes a precious resource to the others. Each idea is valued -- and evaluated. Choices must be made. Different parts of the project must be very closely coordinated. Sometimes a group passes through conflicts on the way to triumphant creation, but they learn as they go.

World Builders makes transparent use of technology. Students search the web for knowledge, email each other to exchange ideas, write their chapters with word processors, pour their images from SuperPaint to PhotoShop to GraphicConverter, and synthesize their products into colorful web pages. They are reaching for animation now. Will we greet the new millenium with 3D pages?

World Builders teaches important concepts. Although this educational model could be used with different materials in other contexts, in this case students are dealing with natural laws that do not bend, with problems of resource limitation, with the connectedness of future, present, and past, with the adaptations that living things (and cultures) must make to survive.

This course is not limited to university students. Serious scientists participate in world building -- and find that it challenges them. Junior High School students would find this project very attractive. At every level, the learners expand their knowledge and understanding.

World Builders is creating a new model in education. It is a course in which the aquisition of information, while essential, is subordinated to the synthesis and processing of that information. This model embraces a world in which enormous amounts of information are available to everyone, but choosing, using, and shaping relevant information are skills that must be learned. This course encourages question generation, and evaluation of those questions. It encourages the integration of knowledge from a number of diverse disciplines, and creates context for what is learned, rather than allowing the storage of isolated facts.

Anyone who has a connection to the web can take this course. Space and time are unimportant, because the information is on the web and the other students and the professor are available by email. It could easily become a distance education course, although the in-class meetings are a lot fun. Video Conferencing would be a natural addition to this course if the group members were separated geographically..

World Builders provides a safe framework for speculation, creativity, and play. Ideas are shared, embellished, and modified as the group gives feedback and encouragement to its members.

World Builders is not intended to replace tradional courses, but rather to supplement them, to spur student curiosity, and to help students to integrate what they already know. After taking a problem-focused course, students look to traditional, structured courses to give coherence to what they have learned -- and to what they yet want to know.



© Elizabeth Anne Viau, 1997, 1998, 2003, 2004. All rights reserved. This material may be used freely for instructional purposes but not sold for a price beyond the cost of reproduction. Please inform the author if you use it at eviau@earthlink.net.