What are Virtual Worlds?


Virtual worlds garnered a tremendous amount of attention in 2006-2009, when millions of individuals created online avatars and institutions were developing building after building on designated plots of virtual land. In Linden Lab’s Second Life®, world-class universities hosted thousands of educational projects and experiments, from recreating historical spaces to replicating renowned museums and works of art. A lot of energy was devoted to building tools, climate simulators, physics engines, and facilitating the overall capability of these platforms to simulate reality. The idea was that these environments could foster unique and immersive learning opportunities, doing so in a way that uniquely made people feel like that were together in the same place. While the hype around virtual worlds has waned in recent years, there are still compelling developments, mainly in the form of WebGL, a new way of rendering 3D objects in via a web browser, which has been applied in virtual worlds. CloudParty, a Facebook application, is a good example of the capability of WebGL, though it is more of a hangout space and does not have as strong a tie to learning as do other purpose-built spaces. Google is a leading player in academic WebGL technology, and its vast collection of user contributed “Chrome Experiments” range from an interactive timeline of satellite launches to a visualization of connected cells that enable people to create biologically-inspired patterns.

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

  • I thank you...and my various avatars thank you...for resurrecting Virtual Worlds as an item! With all the attention Virtual Reality (VR) is getting, I was wondering when folks would remember that, while folks are figuring out how to make VR "social," VWs have been, are now, and always will be the ultimate computer-based social experience! - davidwdeeds davidwdeeds Apr 4, 2016- jmorrison jmorrison Apr 8, 2016
  • http://www.avatarstorytellers.com/default.asp?iId=HILHG- jmorrison jmorrison Apr 9, 2016
  • I hear you David and you and I would both like to see virtual worlds be reality. They allow students to "be" and "experience for real" instead of sitting in a chair taking down notes. I think there is some potential with Google Cardboard and the like but I don't see this really formulating to something usable until way off in the horizon. The problem with most virtual world experiences is it requires equipment and bandwidth that most schools do not have. When we figure out how to make it cheap and not a bandwidth sucker it will gain the traction it needs. - mrskeeler mrskeeler May 1, 2016
  • add your response here

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


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

  • As the text mentioned, interest peaked, then started to wane. The hype over VR will rejuvenate VWs in education, just as it has on this list! VR is expensive, still a bit "out there" as far as K-12 school are concerned, and, as I mentioned, how to make VR "social" remains elusive. OpenSimulator is FREE...and easy (for a geek, anyway) to set up. I foresee schools backing up to VWs to make the eventual transition to VR. Ultimately, of course, we'll all strap on our Oculus Rifts and interact with each other in...yes...a VW. But VWs are VR without a costly headset, and you can do it today! - davidwdeeds davidwdeeds Apr 4, 2016
  • Virtual World has a large potential to help everything from creativity, inquiry, social aspects, and more. It can be used to provide experience to students they might not get any other way. http://ec2-54-183-21-45.us-west-1.compute.amazonaws.com/ - kayj kayj Apr 24, 2016Agree.- jmorrison jmorrison Apr 25, 2016
  • The research is pretty clear on what makes something engaging and learning sticky. Authentic experiences. "Real World." But "real" doesn't have to be "real real" just "real to the learner." Students can explore, do inquiry, build, create, socialize, interact, simulate not just "fill out" (worksheets). When virtual worlds figures out how to overcome the device dependency, cost and bandwidth issues it should have an ENORMOUS impact on learning. - mrskeeler mrskeeler May 1, 2016
  • Online education in it's current state is overwhelmingly lame. It's a focus on content and "getting it done" to get the grade or the piece of paper. Rarely is it done very well (my opinion). I predict in 20 years online education will be unrecognizable from the PDF repository and contrived discussion boards we see today. Virtual worlds has a huge potential to drive the revolution. - mrskeeler mrskeeler May 1, 2016

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


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