Technologies

Publish at June 30 2022 Updated June 30 2022

Gather.town - A 2D virtual world for the classroom

A collaborative platform that looks like a video game from the 80s

What is it?

Gather.town is a platform that mixes video conferencing and travel in a 2D virtual world. It can be presented as a mix between Zoom or Teams and a retro RPG. With a slightly pixelated visual like video games from the 80s, Gather allows its users to create permanent virtual spaces using existing templates. In particular, one will be able to find school-related settings such as a classroom, a library or a lab which allows for an experience that comes as close as possible to what is experienced in a real classroom.

It should be noted that in the free version of Gather, the number of participants is limited to 25 people in a single space.

How does it work?

In the following video, Manon Fouques Lasserre (a middle school modern literature teacher and an active member of the Team Ludens collective) offers a short tutorial to help us get started on creating our Gather.town.


For what uses?

- Charlie Rollo & Manon Fouques Lasserre

As part of an article for Ludomag at the Ludovia#BE, Charlie Rollo and Manon Fouques, respectively an English teacher in the Versailles academy and a modern literature teacher in the Normandy academy, talk about Gather Town.

Both members of the Team Ludens, they explain to us that during the health crisis they discovered and adopted this platform that looks like a Zelda-like video game and allows dozens of people to meet online in the form of a small character. They go on to insist that this platform has all the advantages of videoconferencing, but goes further by also making it a permanent space where learners can meet to work independently without their teacher. And that this space facilitates group work as well as the sharing of links, videos and other educational resources in synchronous as well as asynchronous.

They also explain to us, that the platform was widely acclaimed by the students with whom they had tested various distance learning platforms (CNED, Zoom, Jitsi, etc.) and that nearly 90% of the students in 6th grade (France) asked for its continuity when returning to the classroom. This is how they were also able to experiment with it as an extension of the courses.

In the following video, Manon Fouques takes us through her Gather Town.


- Julien Martineau

As part of an article for Profweb (now Eductive), Julien Martineau, a French as a second language teacher at Marianopolis College, shares how he tried to establish a close-knit dynamic with his students in his Francophone Poetry, Slam, and Rap course.

Like many, he explains to us, he has found that one of the essential elements of distance learning is the connection you create with students, but more importantly, that you maintain throughout the session. For Julien Martineau, it is not an easy task to be accessible and available to students without sacrificing one's own equilibrium, or even one's mental health! It is in this context, he tells us, that he discovered Gather.

After a first experience, where he transposed a creative exercise he usually did in class, he decided to use Gather for his office hours as well. He wanted above all to recreate the conviviality and the simplicity of the office hours before COVID where 1,2 or 3 students could come at the same time to meet him. At the same time, he wanted to recreate what students were sorely lacking, i.e. meeting spaces.

Here is the composition of his virtual office:

  • 1 large central room;
  • 1 small room reserved for individual meetings;
  • 1 medium-sized room where students can meet to work and discuss;
  • what could be considered as 1 rest room containing various fun activities.

The principle of his office hours is very simple: each week, he is available in his Gather for a certain number of hours (for example, every Thursday from 9am to 12pm). Students can come and meet him, discuss with him or simply work on their own, alone or in teams.

Another advantage of Gather, which he wishes to emphasize, is the possibility of recreating the dynamics of a classroom with the addition of different interactive elements.

In the following video from Teacher TacTic, he introduces us to his Gather Town and what he does in the classroom with this tool.

- David Croteau

As part of an article for L'Ecole branchée, David Croteau, a music teacher at the Centre de services scolaires de Montréal (CSSDM) distance education services, gave Martine Rioux a guided tour of the Gather Town virtual environment he uses with his elementary students.

In his "virtual world", he has recreated practice rooms for different musical instruments, a traditional classroom with a whiteboard, a movie theater for viewing subject-related videos, etc. Students can then move around depending on the tasks they have to accomplish. He sees other possibilities, such as allowing students from different classes to interact with each other. Because the tool is accessible even outside of class, he has actually found that students are meeting there to chat in the evenings or on weekends.

N.B.: You can find some instructions for use in the CSS de Laval's Trousse numérique.

My opinion of Gather.town

With the coronavirus-related pandemic, videoconferencing tools quickly became popular. However, the somewhat static nature of these tools poses limitations in terms of online presence, communication and interaction.

Gather instead offers a more flexible environment and a different way to interact. It thus proves to be an interesting tool for producing educational activities that are difficult to achieve with other video conferencing tools such as, for example, producing museum-like virtual exhibition activities. It also encourages the development of informal exchanges between students, which greatly contributes to creating a positive learning climate in a distance learning setting.

The platform is ultimately very widely acclaimed by students, some of whom even wished that this approach would persist despite the return to face-to-face learning, and many teachers intend to continue its use. This popularity is, in my opinion, largely deserved in light of the potential of this technological solution.

Gérald TIROT

Sources

      "Creating a dynamic of closeness with one's students, even at a distance: a continuous accompaniment Profweb, https://www.profweb.ca/publications/recits/creer-une-dynamique-de-proximite-avec-ses-etudiants-meme-a-distance-un-accompagnement-en-continu-2-2. Accessed June 29, 2022.

      Teaching at a Distance with Gather Town? www.youtube.com, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cJPCdxrq-SE. Accessed June 29, 2022.

      Gather Town, what is it? Discovery tutorial. www.youtube.com, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wv5niRaD2ck. Accessed June 29, 2022.

      Gather Town, tuto creation. www.youtube.com, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wXdNmUCIx2Q. Accessed June 29, 2022.

      Gather Town: a window into the future of education? https://cursus.edu/fr/23393/gather-town-une-fenetre-sur-le-futur-de-leducation. Accessed June 29, 2022.

      redaction. "Ludopedagogy: Gather Town, in search of the G-spot". Ludomag, 19 October 2021, https://www.ludomag.com/2021/10/19/gather-town-a-la-recherche-du-point-g/.

      Rioux, Martine. "New virtual environments for socializing. Connected School, April 26, 2021, https://ecolebranchee.com/gather-town/.

      Sandrine Favre, Leonard Truscello, Didier Dorsaz. Gather. https://edutechwiki.unige.ch/fr/Gather.

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