Why bother? – After all, virtual worlds – in education are almost invisible in the media (who favor more negative conceptions or sex, violence and sociopathic stalkers) and require more cognitive effort than swapping Word for a Wiki.
Because it’s good for them! de Freitas (2008) attempts to begin the process of mapping how virtual worlds are being used for educational purposes suggesting that there are a huge variety of relevant applications which include mentoring, constructing learning activities, exploratory trails, role play and the rehearsal of skills. Further more, Salt (2005) describes how Second Life can offer far more than conventional e-learning software through the sense of immediacy, shared experiences and the opportunities for emotional closeness.
Learning to acquire any kind of competence is a struggle of sorts, and acquiring boundary-crossing competence is no different.
While researchers point out that participation in virtual worlds gives users access to a ‘constellation’ of literacy practices (Steinkuehler 2007), the exact make-up of these vary according to users backgrounds, access to resources – and the design of the environment. Cheal (2007) suggests that the use of virtual world programs in education is “not only inevitable as part of the evolution of teaching and learning, but a positive development,” as it fosters active, experiential learning.
I wonder, if games and virtual worlds are not ideal — perhaps optimal technology to achieve this, what is?
Cheal, C. (2007). Second Life: Hype or Hyperlearning? On the Horizon 15 (2007): 207.
de Freitas, S. (2008). Serious Virtual Worlds – A Scoping Study. JISC. Serious Games Institute.
Salt, B. (2005). “International Study Circles,” E-learning And Democracy: Critical Perspectives On The Promise Of Global Distance Education, A. A. Chellman-Carr, Ed. Sage Publications, Newbury Park, 2005, p.101-114.
Steinkuehler, C. (2007). Massively Multiplayer On-Line Gaming As A Constellation Of Literacy Practices. E-learning 4 (3):297-318.