Tutorial 10   Shape the Virtual Habitat

In this tutorial you use the Habitat Board to make alterations or full revisions to the virtual spaces where your lesson or unit will take place.

A Note About the Term "Virtual"

The definition and placing of "Virtual Habitat" in the Design / Engage Kit is deliberate. We deliberately have not used the term "technology". Instead, "virtual" means any mechanism for the transmission or manipulation of information. This could be through a computer, or a TV, or a piece of paper or whiteboard. In your virtual design, consider what sort of "information flow" you want to encourage or make possible, and then find the tools or technologies to match. 

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Step 1 - Ideate

As with Tutorial 9 Shape the Physical Habitat you can start with an ideation process, that is the gathering of a broad range of "what ifs" which you can then cull back, later, to a make a coherent plan.

Browse through the cards below and gather "what ifs" on Post It notes:

The small square cards work just as well for unpacking virtual space as they do in physical space. 

This is because the cards represent relationships between people and their environment. In virtual space, as in physical space, this helps us answer meaningful questions about what sorts of interactions you want to nurture. We took our inspiration for the Cave, Campfire and Watering Hole cards from this this article by Prof David Thornburg.


a Cave is reflective space.

  • Students could keep a regular blog, with a free tool such as Edublogs.
  • A low-tech version could be a written diary.
  • You could put a "Cave" card on the Storyboard to make this a routine

a Campfire is a space for expertise

  • Create flipped learning (Guru) videos with your phone, with a Swivl, or with iPad apps Explain Everything or Show Me.
  • or use 3rd party videos such as Brainpop
  • TV screens, whiteboards, and student phones could also be used to offer expertise

a Watering Hole is a space for collaboration


an Empty Space has no agenda - it is waiting to be configured

Consider how classroom displays can be cluttered with old work, signs, etc. Where could you clear display space - once, or routinely so that students could claim and configure that space for their own purposes? 

a Maker space has tools for students to create
Maker tools can blur the line between physical and virtual, connecting physical objects with computers and algorithms with powerful effects and incredible scope for invention.
Consider: Scratch as an easy programming language, connected to the outside world via a Makey Makey 

an Outside space is beyond the normal spatial boundareies

With technology you can open up a window to the world. For instance:

use virtual space for student publishing

Students sell self-authored books via a "print on demand" website such as lulu.com.

Students post video content online, and also here.

Student blogging, examples here (30,000 visitors) and here (85,000 visitors).


Step 2 - Sieve Your Ideas

Review your insights on the People board, your plan so far, including if relevant your Habitat Big Idea and physical Habitat design so far. Consider time constraints and technology constraints. Choose a shortlist of some powerful virtual spaces to use in your design.


Step 3 - Create a Virtual Mudmap

Now use the Habitat board to sketch out your ideas and integrate them with the physical space. 

In particular, consider whether you could bring all your online spaces together in a central website. You can create a clickable front page for your students.


Step 4 - Test Your Mudmap

Show your sketch to students or colleagues as per Tutorial 7 Prototype s a Bridge to New Insight


Step 5 - Build Your Virtual Home

Once your design is mature enough, you can actually build a web page that brings all your virtual spaces together. You can do this by creating links that go out from the web page to the various other spaces. Students simply have to navigate to the home page and they'll be fine. 

If you have a Learning Management System you could use that. At NBCS we use Moodle, and here are some of our course pages. You can see the clickable icons. (You can browse these live via the NBCS Habitat examples page.)

If you don't have a Learning Management System, or you do but it is ugly, you can build a virtual home for your course with the free site builder Weebly. You can access tutorials here.

Use Thinglink or Blendspace to assemble different resources, web pages, videos, or Matrix of options onto one central page on a nice clear graphic.