Virtual Worlds for Teaching – Wrong Question

OK, now I understand my objection to what people are thinking about Second Life and education. Look at this call for articles (below) for a special issue of Innovate. Its the same beef I have with Michael Wesch when he asks “What are we DOING to change how we are teaching” in light of digital tools and web 2.0?

How many times does the call say “content,” “delivery,” or “teaching” vs. the times it focuses on “learners” and “learning?” When it does wonder about how learning is assessed, do you get the sense it even considered a learning-centric means like a portfolio? Why does it refer to “student work” and “protection” rather than “student intellectual property” and its licensing?

The other day Gary pointed me to Barr and Tagg’s piece on the prevailing “Instruction” paradigm vs. the “Learning” paradigm.

Gary, Theron and I wrote an op-ed for the local paper when they got all excited about virtual worlds. And for EDUCAUSE 2007 Microsoft commissioned a piece (Out of the Classroom and Into the Boardroom) from a team that included Gary and me. We looked at the future moving beyond the current teaching-centric LMS — punchline: Dump Blackboard in favor of worldware and web-based collaborative tools (Google Docs, SharePoint, Blogger).

I think maybe its time for me take the challenge to write a piece proposing a learning-focused use of Second Life — or more likely, setting out the features that are necessary and sufficient in a virtual world for learning-centric activities to happen.

I think there would be two sections:

  • What are the necessary and sufficient conditions for (sustained, if not lifelong) learning centric activities to proceed
  • What are the virtues that virtual worlds offer to learners and learning that are not met in the “regular” virtual world of Web 2.0?

The Innovate call for papers:

Innovate, published as a public service by the Fischler School of Education
and Human Services and sponsored, in part, by Microsoft is soliciting
manuscripts for a special issue on academics in virtual environments. This
issue focuses on the use of Multi-User Virtual Environments (MUVEs) as an
enhancement to K-21 education. A MUVE combines graphics and audio with the
ability to communicate with multiple users in real time within the context
of a 3-D virtual environment. MUVEs are not necessarily considered games,
as programs like Second Life and There have no end goal or objective.

Harvard’s CyberOne: Law in the Court of Public Opinion course opened the
doors for other academics to use virtual environments to enhance teaching
and learning. In the past two years, over 300 colleges and universities
have claimed virtual land in an attempt to enhance content delivery. This
virtual land and its future development occurs only a computer network.
While critics and skeptics exist, many educators are looking to take the
plunge and discover the potential of virtual-based teaching.

Submissions for this special issue may address, but are not limited to,
these key issues:

1. Does teaching in virtual environments enhance course content? If so,
how? If not, why not?

2. How is learning assessed within virtual environments? Are these
assessments comparable to existing forms of assessment?

3. What are the ethical considerations of creating virtual content? What
are the practical concerns? If a university funds virtual projects, who
owns the content? Who should own the content? How are students protected?
How is student work protected?

4. Are there best practices for teaching or research in virtual worlds?
What are some strategies for beginners?

5. What are the challenges of teaching in virtual space? How are these
challenges addressed?

6. How are virtual projects funded? What avenues for support exist?

7. What pedagogical approaches are central to the delivery of materials
within virtual worlds?

One Response to “Virtual Worlds for Teaching – Wrong Question”

  1. One small step for man » Blog Archive Says:

    […] One small step for man Exploring learning & technologies from outside the university’s walls « Virtual Worlds for Teaching – Wrong Question […]

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