Connecting theory and practice: my virtual life

*This post was written by Anna Dinissuk, a MEd student studying Developmental Psychology and Education.

One of the biggest complaints I had heard students make when I was doing my undergraduate degree was that what they were learning didn’t seem relevant or important to real life. In classes that had more practical applications, such as Developmental Psychology, there was still a lot of theory and facts. There wasn’t much opportunity to apply knowledge in a practical context.

Thankfully, that isn’t the case here at OISE. I have plenty of opportunity to apply concepts learned in class to case studies and various other forms of experiential learning.

For this particular blog post, I am going to focus on the My Virtual Life software developed by Pearson Education.

In one of my required courses, Foundations of Human Development and Education, I have a rather unique assignment. I have to grow a virtual child and a virtual adult using the My Virtual Life software developed by Pearson. The completion of the virtual child and adult is worth 10% of my overall grade in the course.

To extend the experience further, I have a Final Paper worth 40% of my grade where I have to pick specific examples from the life of my virtual adult and/or child. These examples are meant to illustrate points in a particular area of development and education that I have decided to examine further.

How My Virtual Life Works

I filled out relevant personal information about myself to create both the virtual adult and virtual child. The process of growing the child and adult to completion is basically answering a bunch of multiple-choice questions about relevant life choices and reflecting on specific parts of life through short answer questions as prompted by the program. The point of My Virtual Life is to understand how certain life choices and parenting tactics affect human development. It’s a nice complement to the theory of the foundation course that every DPE MEd student has to take.

One of the multiple choice questions I had to answer for my virtual adult.

Classmates I have spoken to have also said that it’s useful, but some people have also said that it’s fairly easy to make certain decisions virtually and a different matter altogether to make them in real life. These people said more specifically that it was easy to decide to parent a virtual child in a firm and consistent manner, but much harder to do that with an actual child. I see their point, but feel that having a virtual or simulated experience is better than having no practical experience at all.

A snapshot of one of my virtual child's milestones.

A later milestone of my virtual child.

Another benefit of the program is that you can follow the syllabus for course themes and readings as you grow your child to gain a better understanding of each developmental stage as it occurs. My virtual child, Samuel, is fully grown but my adult is taking longer. I think that this is a useful exercise, but that people need to keep up with it throughout the course of the semester in order for it to be beneficial.

Final Thoughts:

I hope that this post helps prospective students understand how courses at OISE strive to make content relevant and meaningful to everyday life. In this day and age, practical application of skills is important, and I’m glad that I’m in a graduate program that encourages this.