Monday, February 2
Tired of the real one – try a virtual world
I was intrigued to read in a recent Future Education blogpost that more than 200 virtual worlds aimed at young people are in development around the world. This surge in development was prompted by the fact that Disney bought the virtual world Club Penguin in 2007 for $700million.
About 107 of the listed worlds ( source ) are aimed at kids aged seven and under. Tweens ages eight to 12 are the target audience for 90 worlds, while teens are the anticipated audience for 78.( VentureBeat, Jan 09)
Popular virtual worlds for primary aged students include:
Whyville is a virtual world where boys and girls from all over the real world come to chat, play, learn, and have fun together. You design your face, earn clams by playing games, hang out at the beach, and go to town events at the Greek Theater. You can start your own business, buy a car and give your friends a ride, or write for the town newspaper.
Quest Atlantis (QA) is an international learning and teaching project that uses a 3D multi-user environment to immerse children, ages 9-15, in educational tasks.
Club Penguin is a Disney-owned virtual world where users waddle around as penguins. They can play games, chat, and decorate their igloos. Anyone can use Club Penguin for free, but many of the features are available only to paying members.
Club Penguin is recommended for ages 7-14.
Not surprisingly, the education benefits of this growing phenomenon are under-researched and most research that I did find was generic in nature i.e. listed benefits such as engagement. It was interesting to see that John Hattie's recent data placed the effect size of simulations and gaming, where the teacher acted as facilitator, at the top of the pops however this effect size dulled in comparison to the effect size of numerous behaviors where the teacher acted as the activator. (Table 11.1 , Visible Learning (2009) Page 243 )
I guess the educational benefits depend on a complex number of variables including what the world demands of its avatars and how connections and transfers from learning in the virtual world are made to the learners other worlds.
It would be interesting to inquire with students into the impact on say literacy learning when blending the use of a virtual world into the programme mix.
Interested in hearing your thoughts and experience with virtual worlds.