What are Virtual Worlds?

The capability of virtual worlds has expanded considerably in the past few years, with enormous development in building tools, climate simulators, physics engines, and the overall capability of these platforms to simulate reality. Gartner Research, Inc. has estimated that by 2011, 80% of Internet users will have an avatar in a virtual world, and hundreds of platforms to allow those avatars places to interact are already available or in development. Virtually every higher education institution has some sort of work going in around virtual spaces, and in just one platform alone, Linden Lab’s Second Life®, thousands of educational projects and experiments are actively underway. Early projects that drew heavily on real-world forms and practices gradually have given way to more experimental ventures that take advantage of the unique opportunities afforded by virtual worlds and other immersive digital environments. Now we are seeing increased use of these spaces for truly immersive forms of learning and for a level of collaboration that is erasing traditional boundaries and borders rapidly. The technology that supports virtual worlds is advancing at a rapid rate, paving the way for more realistic environments, connections between different platforms, and new ways to enter and use virtual spaces. As participation and development both continue to increase, these environments are becoming ever more interesting spaces with obvious potential for teaching, learning, and creative expression.

INSTRUCTIONS: Enter your responses to the questions below. This is most easily done by moving your cursor to the end of the last item and pressing RETURN to create a new bullet point. Please include URLs whenever you can (full URLs will automatically be turned into hyperlinks; please type them out rather than using the linking tools in the toolbar).

Please "sign" your contributions by marking with the code of 4 tildes (~) in a row so thVirat we can follow up with you if we need additional information or leads to examples- this produces a signature when the page is updated, like this: - alan alan Jan 27, 2010

(1) How might this technology be relevant to the educational sector you know best?

  • As noted in the description above, there are numerous colleges, universities, and workplace learning and performance programs using virtual worlds. The biggest challenge seems to be the simple act of moving beyond the "isn't this amazing?" stage and applying some solid instructional design and adult learning best practices to what is happening in the use of virtual worlds for education. Far too much of what is in place right now seems to be ignoring what we already know about learning; we seem to be wasting time on the frosting without even having baked a decent cake. - paul.signorelli paul.signorelli Oct 5, 2010
  • Visualization, primarily. Creating environments and objects to which students and faculty do not have ready access. - bryan bryan Oct 14, 2010

(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

  • Nothing missing that I can see. - paul.signorelli paul.signorelli Oct 5, 2010 - Olufemi.Olubodun Olufemi.Olubodun Oct 19, 2010
  • Does this include gaming (" and other immersive digital environments")? There are vital, vast differences, if so! - bryan bryan Oct 14, 2010
  • Minecraft might be a tasty example to mention. - bryan bryan Oct 14, 2010

(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on teaching, learning, or creative expression?

  • Virtual worlds add to the entire toolkit of technologies we're looking at this year. They provide a fine complement to what is happening onsite, clearly augment what is happening in augmented reality, are an integral part of collaborative environments, and even seem to have a place in personal learning. They provide innovative learning opportunities that further prepare students and adult learners in workplace learning and performance sessions to remain creative and competitive in the most positive of senses. - paul.signorelli paul.signorelli Oct 5, 2010 - Olufemi.Olubodun Olufemi.Olubodun Oct 19, 2010
  • As we have seen virtual worlds expand, there have already been some incredible creative expressions emerging. Just consider machinima. With so many users finding ways to take the existing environments and uses within their limitations, or leverage those restrictions, it provides a clear indication that this is an environment that promotes the creative drive in many. Providing better graphics, sound, and tactical response will enrich the experience of the participant in terms of performance and presentation options, and new technologies will definitely provide a greater sense of emersion of all within the environment. However, ultimately, it is still just a canvass. It will serve to inspire because of the potential. - Dougdar Dougdar Oct 5, 2010
  • New forms of storytelling, and new questions for stories. How do we tell stories in virtual environments? How do those experiences shape us? - bryan bryan Oct 14, 2010

(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?

http://vimeo.com/13267178 (Gwinnett County Public Library Training Manager Jay Turner's innovative virtual staff day program is just one element of what Jay is doing as a leading innovator in the use of virtual worlds for training-teaching-learning.) - paul.signorelli paul.signorelli Oct 5, 2010
http://alalearning.org/2010/07/13/welcome-to-the-machinima/ (Jay Turner's description of how he created the virtual staff day event) - paul.signorelli paul.signorelli Oct 5, 2010
http://maxping.org/virtual-life/other/virtual-world-trends-for-2010-(with-a-look-back-at-2009).aspx - paul.signorelli paul.signorelli Oct 5, 2010
The Fall of the House of Usher http://www.koinup.com/iggyo/work/167988/ - bryan bryan Oct 14, 2010