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Archive for the ‘Educational Gaming’ Category

Recent additions to the themes of this blog have been moved to a new WordPress site.  The new blog “Beyond the Crystal Ball” will focus on preparing teachers and  students for the 21st Century, so the focus has been expanded beyond the original topics covered on this site.  To visit the new blog click on http://futurestudy.wordpress.com

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The following resources were collected in preparation for a meeting of members of the COPPER Carnegie leadership group (involving six colleges) that are a part of the Carnegie Academy’s CASTL initiative http://www.carnegiefoundation.org/general/index.asp?key=21 . Members will meet in a virtual world to explore the educational applications and potential of this technology. These resources may be of value to those looking for information on virtual worlds and games as educational tools.

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Bridging Cultures

Our theme will be “Bridging Cultures,” exploring new teaching strategies and technologies to bridge the gap between the digital culture of our students and the culture of school. In addition, given that the majority of college faculty at most institutions are age 40+, we have a generational gap to challenge us. While we will be focusing on one social technology, that of virtual worlds, there are a range of tools from podcasting, blogging, streaming video, interactive voice and video, computer simulations and games, instant messaging, etc. that can be of use.

There are three individuals who are writing most persuasively about the theme of “bridging cultures” that I can recommend. They include Harvey Jenkins (MIT Comparative Media Studies), James Paul Gee (Arizona State Professor of Literary Studies), and John Seely Brown (visiting scholar at USC, formerly Chief Scientist of Xerox Corporation). Here are links to their bios if you want to know more about them.

Henry Jenkins – http://cms.mit.edu/people/

James Paul Gee – http://www.joanganzcooneycenter.org/about/our-people/gjames.html

John Seely Brown – http://www.johnseelybrown.com/bio.html

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While there are a number of specific attributes to consider when choosing a virtual world world for educational purposes, the culture of that world is of particular significance. The Internet still resembles the “Wild West” in some ways, and when venturing into cyberspace with your students you never know who or what you will encounter. Most virtual worlds have a community culture which varies greatly in terms of the ages of the members, common topics of conversation, acceptable behavior and helpfulness. While many high school and college students are Internet savvy and little will surprise or distress them, older students and those with minimal online experience might find some potential encounters bothersome. In addition, the appropriateness of the environment for educational purposes might make some virtual cultures more desirable than others. While public spaces are never free from some risk, there are some virtual cultures that are better bets than others.

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At Vanderbilt University a first-year writing course entitled “Worlds of Wordcraft: Narrative Forms in the Digital Classroom” makes use of a variety of media to engage students in the learning process while enhancing their writing skills. Games and virtual worlds that are used in this course include Lord of the Rings Online, Dark Age of Camelot and Neverwinter Nights 2.http://sitemason.vanderbilt.edu/vanderbiltview/articles/2007/11/01/learning-in-a-digital-age.48427

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If you’re fairly tech savvy or have spent some time in virtual worlds, this post may not be for you. If on the other hand, you have an interest in getting your feet wet in the virtual waters, but your current use of online technology is limited primarily to email and surfing the web, then this entry is intended to help make this process quite manageable. Some of the earlier blog posts on virtual worlds might be useful as background, but this one will focus on the nuts and bolts of getting started.

When I’ve had a chance to talk with educators about virtual worlds I’ve noticed a considerable amount of interest, but also some concerns or apprehensions. One concern is related to the technology as mentioned above, the other relates to time issues. We’ll address them both below. (more…)

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There has been considerable interest in recent years in the study of virtual worlds and computer/video games. This interest can be broken down roughly into the following four areas:

  1. Pure research
  2. Knowledge and skills acquired while gaming
  3. Games as educational models
  4. Virtual Worlds and Games as teaching/learning tools

In this post we’ll take a look at the first area, pure research, with a focus on virtual worlds.

Virtual worlds with their millions of participants worldwide has drawn considerable interest as a social phenomena. They represent fertile grounds for research and study in such varied fields as psychology, sociology, economics, education and even law. What are the implications for those who spend 20 or more hours per week on average in these spaces and for the future when many more people will be inhabiting these worlds while at work, study, play and when socializing?

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If you’re If you’re interested in taking the leap and exploring a virtual world or two where do you start? Your first decision is to determine whether you want to visit one of the open-ended non-gaming virtual worlds or one of the theme based MMORPGs (massive multi-player online role playing games).

Free-Form Worlds

The first category is most widely used for educational purposes. Second Life is probably the best known of these worlds and offers much to explore. There are also a number of published guides to this world to assist you. However, I have found its interface unique and somewhat complex for beginners.

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