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There are some places that I would not take teachers. Virtual worlds are one of them. The overhead is too high, the distance too far and the experience too abstract.

Before pressing ‘enter world’ there has to be a clear understanding of what that means. Didactically, it’s simple, but any virtual world is not what it seems. Virtual worlds are a cognitive technology; they change the way you perceive space, time, people and capability.

A virtual world is not an information appliance in the way a website or web-tool appears. To quote a brighter mind than mine, an avatar has a plastic brain, but is hybrid mind.

We can get deeper – another quote I like is “your own body is a phantom, one that your brain has temporarily constructed purely for convenience”.

I would not take teachers into a virtual world, any more than I could seek to take you into a web-browser . A virtual world is all about interweaving human-centredness into our lives, identities by constantly trying to construct a mental sense of place, presence and self. This might sound very odd, from someone who spends a lot of time ‘in world’, but to take a teacher into a world and attempt to train them is like asking them to use a wiki with a blindfold.

I cannot take teachers into a virtual world, I could only hope to meet them there. Everyone who maintains a sustained immersion in a virtual world has in some way re-wired their brain to accept a post-humanist reality. Every teacher I meet in virtual world, has a deep understanding of self organising knowledge structures, and how to balance multiple persona in which they interact, network, explore and experience a fundamentally different, perhaps cybernetic form of human intelligence.

A virtual world, unlike a website – has not been created from print culture and cannot support brains that mundanely perform acts of functional literacy in order to create ‘knowledge’. Teachers can enter virtual worlds, they can run lessons, they might even learn something new for a while; but to persist requires a deeper connection and get past the belief that entering a virtual world is to be an isolated key-tapper using an information appliance as a novelty or worse because they fail to connect to the real world. If we hope to teach kids in virtual worlds, then we must be residents in mind and body, and give away conscious thoughts about what is real and artificial.

Virtual worlds, are the sanctuary of childish minds. The one place they can go without being subjected to artificial boundaries – that I am afraid to say are mandated as soon as you ‘put’ people in-world. We are dabbling on the edge. Without question – those in virtual worlds, those who lead students into experiences, not activities are rare. To quote another favourite line “I am the sum of the total parts I control directly” – In a virtual world, the point is not to seek direct control over your avatar, but to use it as an extension of your mind – to change it.

Try creating a lesson plan to do that (unless you’re already there).

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