Metaplace is not out yet, but is in private beta, so it won’t be too long. It is a very interesting idea which has grabbed millions of dollars of investment. Watch the YouTube video for a visual explanation of the technology. What is allows us or students to do is to create a world in which all the programming is done for you, all you need to do is choose what you want to pull into it.
Students for example, could create a world in which they pull in webpage content as part of an assignment. They could then invite other students. They could discuss content or add content. The virtual world itself simply pulls in ‘media’. It is another great example of how exisiting content and read/write feeds are mashing with 3D environments. Rather than creating new places, this kind of technology is bringing social network media into three dimentional representations. It is not the fact that these are ‘virtual worlds’ – more that the distance between 2D content browsing, and 3D immersive experiences are merging.
The advent of printing, really changed the way we learned. Before that, learning was not text and image based, nor did it start of page one. We learned in 3D spaces in which language, sound, movement and multiple inputs formed the whole. Almost all of what we did to commit learning to some sort of retained storage media was, and still is, 2D. Gaming is now almost entirely 3D – But by that I mean it’s still 2D, but simulates ‘first person’ with sound and images being artificially manufactured to give the impression of immersion in a 3D space. As the cost of creating and delivering this, using tools like Metaplace, are reduced – effectively to almost zero, then the human, who is by nature built to learn in 3D space – is more able to do so. This to me is one of the reasons to at least be aware of how virtual worlds are/can/might be used in education. It is evevitable that the 2D nature of ‘the internet’ will continue to move towards 3D experiences – based on social interaction. Right now the internet is busy ‘linking people’ – the future is moving towareds linking shared experience.
Audio for example. Sharing the performance with friends is a different experience to listening alone. Why do we go to see performances? Because we want to ‘see’ not just hear, and we want to share that experience with people we know – or who we think are like us. To me it seems natural that this is what we are seeing happen. The question is – how does this affect student learning in the next five years. Will we still be asking students to represent their learning and creativity – in 2D ways.