Monday, July 09, 2007

Engaging Second Lives

Many - but not all - of my students are living part of their lives in or through digital environments - engaging and often exciting digital environments! Most do not see it that way however - but then I would probably not say that I live in or through print media. It's just everyday living - integrated living perhaps...

I'm continuing my exploration of the educational potential of online immersive worlds - summarised in the above presentation which perhaps simplistically refers to how some people have changed the way they engage with the internet from the information Web 1.0 to the participatory Web 2.0 to the immersive Web 3.0 (or Web 3.D).

This year I've noticed more students plunging into virtual worlds at every opportunity. Many of these worlds are now available through internet browsers. Angela Thomas from the University of Sydney has a brilliant presentation (with audio) on the role of play in immersive worlds and talks about their transformative potential on students and pedagogy. Well worth a look.

I've allowed students to play in these worlds in my multimedia class. Partly to see why they are so engaged, partly to see if I can compete with tasks I set, partly to see if I can use these worlds as a learning environment...

A few weeks ago I purchased several copies of Neverwinter Nights - it has a Toolset for game design - and students have really enjoyed it. After a short time playing it they moved on to designing their own landscapes dotted with characters and buildings and portals... They are now constructing stories with conversations to engage the player.

Neverwinter is not an online persistent virtual world like World of Warcraft or Second Life and that has some advantages for the classroom - although it is not without technical difficulties to get it to work in a school environment.

I'm still thinking about using Teen Second Life but there are security and safety issues to address - worth the challenge I think.

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