Why ask pre-teachers to think critically about virtual worlds?

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.


2 thoughts on “Why ask pre-teachers to think critically about virtual worlds?

  1. No doubt most of your reads, like me, are of a like mindedness concerning the use of virtual worlds (VW) and gaming in the classroom. As a veteran public school teacher who has been using such technology in the classroom for years, the most that can hoped for in our career life is be left alone as we experiment with implementing such unorthodoxy – I have been fortunate. Yet we always imagine what if a paradigm shift really took place – imagine the quality of authentic project-based learning steeped in VW technologies. Conclusion. Such pedagogical dreams will only impact the masses as described in Chris Christensen’s book “Disrupting Class”. Thank you for your posted thoughts.

    • That is a great thought James, I wonder if spaces like World or Warcraft are perhaps a sanctuary for kids. While most view them externally as you sae – inside is a rather blissful community, learning all manner of things. Maybe it’s good that most people keep out while we experiment. Far from the madding crowd so to speak. Thanks a lot for the comment.

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