Tag Archives: virtual worlds

The Global Kids are alright

Whilst in New York I visited the offices of Global Kids. Barry Joseph is the Director of its Online Leadership Program, which “integrates a youth development approach and international and public policy issues into youth media programs that build digital literacy, foster substantive online dialogues, develop resources for educators, and promote civic participation.” It’s a program by the kids, for the kids, and involves gaming and virtual worlds, amongst other things.

Barry Joseph of Global Kids

Barry Joseph of Global Kids

Global Kids and this program are impressive enough to warrant their own blog posts. But right now I just want to throw out a few tidbits from the meeting with Barry.

On virtual worlds:

  • Teen Second Life (SL) has value as a social network and a participatory medium. There is also a sense of playfulness associated with it, which is important. Gaming is successful because humans like to play. Barry believes that drawing the art of play into the real world has value. It allows for fresh perspectives. We apply “ludic sensibilities to the mundane areas of our lives”. Teen SL does a good job of building these mental bridges between the playful-virtual and physical-real worlds.
  • A product they’re working on is Switchboard, which provides a way for anyone in the world with access to a mobile phone to exchange SMS text messages with users in Second Life. Say Rik Panganiban: “We think there is an enormous opportunity to connect those on the other side of the Digital Divide with the rest of the world through technologies like Switchboard. We’ll be doing an initial public test of Switchboard in the coming weeks with a young person in Africa chatting with other teens from around the world.”

On future collaborations:

The youth at Global Kids worked with New York game developers Game Lab to develop a popular serious game called Ayiti, the Cost of Life. The kids have subsequently helped to create a game called Hurricane Katrina: Crescent in Tempest City. Services that they could offer for the Shuttleworth Foundation, or others in SA:

  • To give feedback on game ideas (on a conceptual level), curriculum around a game, game design, etc.
  • To user test game interfaces/demos/prototypes.
  • To advise on the US youth market, for games that are aimed at, or repurposed for, that market.

These services might cost, or might be for free. A conversation needs to happen to establish this.

Virtual Worlds: Exploring Potential for Educational Interaction (ED-MEDIA 2008)

ED-MEDIA 2008 paper: Virtual Worlds: Exploring Potential for Educational Interaction.

Abstract: Interaction is widely accepted as essential for learning. The challenge of distance education is to overcome transactional distance through provision of appropriate opportunities for interaction. Asynchronous and synchronous computer-mediated communication via text, audio and video has done much to reduce transactional distance. 3D online spaces may offer further opportunities to reduce transactional distance but it will be necessary to identify the most appropriate forms of interaction to be included in learning environments using such spaces. As an aid to investigating possible applications of 3D online spaces in distance education some means of mapping out the territory to be explored is desirable. This paper proposes one such map and suggests examples of applications that might be explored in various areas of the map.

An excellent and very interesting presentation on the nature of distance education (DE). Apparently research that compares the quality of learning that happens through distance education vs face-to-face (F2F) shows no difference between the two.

The author considered the issue of transactional distance — e.g. the “space” (physical, psychological, etc.) between the learner and the teacher — which is often biggest in DE projects. However, there is also some transactional distance in F2F classrooms. How can technology, in particular virtual worlds, be used to reduce transactional distance on three levels of interaction:

  • Learner to content?
  • Learner to teacher?
  • Learner to peers?

Peter proposed a cube to visualise the interaction between learner and the three axes above. By conceptualising DE in this way it becomes easier to design DE environments (being able to actually design such spaces is a relatively new affordance; in the bad old days, DE projects relied on snail mail communication!)

If Kusasa, the Shuttleworth Foundation project, ever had to employ a  virtual world for learner activity, it would be based in the cubic block that represents high learner-to-content, high learner-to-learner and low learner-to-teacher activity.

Peter Albion

Author: Peter Albion (above), University of Southern Queensland, Australia