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Teaching art in another world

ASU professor teaches students to find masterpieces in virtual worlds.
Teaching students to see and execute creativity in virtual realms.
January 5, 2016

ASU professor is an expert in 'virtual world' education

You can open a book and look at a picture of an artistic masterpiece or, in a virtual world, you can soar inside a 3-D version and become part of it.

An Arizona State University professor has become an expert in teaching via virtual worlds — computer-based simulated environments where users create avatars, which are online versions of themselves.

Mary Stokrocki, an art education professor in the School of ArtThe School of Art is part of the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts., has created artistic worlds not only for the ASU students she teaches but also for children and senior citizens. She teaches primarily in the Second LifeSecond Life is a virtual online world where users can explore the environs via digital avatars of themselves, or other creations. The service has more than 1 million users. virtual world.

“Everyone thinks this is a game,” StokrockiMary StokrockiStokrocki was named the 2015 Kenneth Marantz Distinguished Fellow for the U.S. Society for Education Through Art. She also was the editor of the 2014 book “Exploration in Virtual Worlds: New Digital Multi-Media Literacy Investigations for Art Education.” said. “It’s a multi-use platform. There is multi-literacy — many ways to communicate, including music and dance.”

The virtual worlds are practical. Students can communicate with peers around the world and explore textures and spatial design instantly. And they can build sculptures or architecture in Second Life that can be created in real life using a 3-D printer.

Much of Stokrocki’s work is done across cultures, including several months teaching “digital ethnography” in Taiwan as a Fulbright Scholar, when she had students create an art exhibit about their country in Second Life.

She has also worked with Navajo and Apache students and participated in a virtual-world project at a charter school in Apache Junction.

Using avatars can transform students and free them to open their minds about themselves, she said.

“I worked with 80-year-olds. In real life, no hair. In Second Life, hair. Tattoos up and down their avatar bodies,” she said.

At first, students hesitate.

“But then they’re fearless,” she said.

Her own avatar is the Lizard of Ars — “ars” is Latin for “art.” Her space in Second Life is called Art Ark (seen in the photo at top).

In class, students learn to search out the masterpieces in the virtual world, like treasures, she said.

"At first they don't know what they're looking for. Our job is to teach them to see.”

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU News


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Strengthening global partnerships

ASU, Sichuan University explore ways to broaden partnership.
ASU renews its partnership with Sichuan University in China.
January 5, 2016

ASU, Sichuan University renew ties

Arizona State University has had a deep partnership with Sichuan University for several years, including student and faculty exchanges, and the two institutions strengthened those ties on Tuesday.

A delegation from Sichuan UniversitySichuan University Sichuan University, in Chengdu, China, has 40,000 undergraduate students and more than 20,000 master's and PhD candidates. visited ASU to sign a renewal agreement and to discuss new programs that would benefit the two world-class universities. Sustainability, language studies and fine arts were mentioned as potential areas of collaboration.

“I think global studies is an important area for the two universities to work together,” said Shijing Yan, vice president of Sichuan University for international affairs and humanities and social science.

He cited the Confucius Institute at ASU as a particular benefit to both universities.

“It is highly appreciated,” Yan said.

The institute offers Chinese language lessons, a camp for Valley youths and community cultural events as well as an eight-week summer language program for ASU students at Sichuan University.

Provost Mark Searle said the Sichuan partnership is an important part of ASU’s mission.

“ASU has been on a continuous track for a number of years to globalize the institution by encouraging more international students to study here,” said Searle (shown above presenting a gift bag to Yan).

Nearly 10,000 international students attend ASU, with more than a third of them from China.

Sichuan students

Administrators from Sichuan University met with Sichuan students who are studying at ASU. Photos by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

Searle mentioned ASU’s recent acquisition of the Thunderbird School of Global Management, and the potential for a partnership at the Glendale campus intrigued the Sichuan administrators.

“There might be another point of action there to build on,” Searle said. “Your students would come with a huge advantage. Thunderbird’s undergraduate and master’s program require second-language competency, and your students come with two languages.”

After the signing, the Sichuan delegation met with their own students who are studying at ASU, as well as with staff from the study-abroad office and several academic colleges.

Yan said the partnership has been beneficial to Sichuan’s students.

“The students say the summers are hot,” Yan said. “But this you cannot avoid.”

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU News