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Thursday, July 19, 2007

Week 6: MUVEs (respond by Friday, July 27th)

Multi User Virtual Environments (MUVEs) allow us to enter and create a variety of different virtual worlds where we can learn, explore, interact and yes, play. Vast amounts of time and energy can be devoted, or in some cases wasted, in these worlds and there is a great deal of skepticism in regards to the educational value of MUVEs. I have provided a few links to some online articles about MUVEs that I think will provide helpful insight into the our present understanding of these virtual worlds and their potential promise for the future. The first article is by Stefanie Olsen who writes for CNET This article, entitled Are Virtual Worlds the Future of the Classroom? looks at the River City Project, Quest Atlantis and Whyville in it's discussion of MUVEs and their place in the "real" classroom. As you will quickly notice, much of the content and focus of these different worlds revolves around science. This is largely because the source of funding of these projects comes from the National Science Foundation which, understandably so, likes to fund research related to the teaching of science as opposed to social studies or math. But as the article indicates, there are opportunities to learn about more than just science. As you read this article I'm curious as to what you feel the primary affordances of these types of environments are for children. Also, what is your opinion about the possible detrimental effects of having kids spend large amounts of time in these environments? What impact, positive or negative, might it have on their ability to interact in the real world?

The second article is an interview with someone from Second Life, which is the virtual world designed more for adults (the version for young adults is called Teen Second Life). This article is actually part 4 of a 4 part series and you can feel free to read part's 1-3 if you want. This particular article (click here to view article) looks at some key issues that traditional educators face when they try to use Second Life either as a casual user or for educational purposes. Even though the issues outlined are focused on Second life I think the ideas apply to a broad range of virtual worlds regardless of the targeted age. In many ways the issues all relate back to changing, or broadening, our perspective of what education looks like and the ways in which learning can take place. I can completely understand the teacher who says, "I don't want to use a virtual environment because kids will just play, or it isn't safe, or it doesn't look like a classroom." But I think it's hard to deny that these virtual worlds, not necessarily all of them, hold some real promise in regards to their ability to provide stimulating and educational experiences for students. In response to the article I would like you to pick out an issue, or several of the issues if you want, that you found particularly interesting and share your opinions on the argument the author made with regard to that particular issue. Personally, I found issue 6 Re-Create v. Create to be especially insightful because this is something I see happening quite often with technology and online learning environments where we try to re-create the traditional learning environment or assignment rather than take advantage of the affordances of the specific technology to create something truly new and different. I'm curious to see what the rest of you think.


Ms. Borsick (Goddard) said...

I found this blog topic to be a perfect scenario for myself, as a classroom teacher and on a personal level. Along with taking this course, I'm enrolled in a science place-based and inquiry class. After reading the two articles I began laughing... The articles push for the integration of more virtual learning (more time spent in front of a screen, indoors). I then go to class and read my science literature which says to get kids outside, they are suffering from "nature deficit...", and they do not know how to interact with nature, etc.
For myself, I'm torn between the two concepts, because I know how important technology is for our future generations. At the same time, I feel there are too many kids sitting in front of a t.v. screen, computer or video game without any other balance in their lives. And with out that balance, comes all sorts of "deficits". I don't know what the answer is.
As far as using virtual worlds, I think that they are just another tool for educators to try and incorporate in order to reach "every child". Another one of my concerns is that many parents are not aware of what their children are "doing" on the computer and many children are not monitored. And, although there are many virtual worlds that have some sort of security set into place, I think that it's a personal judgment of how much you "trust" technology and how much you want your students and your own children to spend "living" in a technological world. Again, I think there's a balance that needs to be found.

Miss Burke said...

I am all for integrating technology into my classroom. However, I do have some concerns when it comes to MUVEs. I guess from a personal stand point MUVEs are probably one piece of technology I don't feel really comfortable with yet (it still seems extremely new to me). I have not yet had time to really play around with MUVEs yet because I didn't choose to create a lesson integrating a MUVE.

I personally feel that MUVEs would be a great supplement or enrichment activity in school that reinforces what is being taught in the classroom. I also think that is the perfect solution to students who may have a disability and are not able or capable to do what takes place in the classroom. In these respects MUVEs are good.

I agree when the article mentioned that MUVEs actually make "life problems" more real-world compared to reading about a disease in a textbook. However, I can see why some people are afraid that their children will start to blend together real life and fantasy. When our students leave school and enter into the professional world they are not going to be able to just earn "clams" and live their life, they are actually going to have to physically get up and go to work.

Now let me speak on behalf of Teen Second Life. I spoke of this in class and yes I understand this MUVE is designed for teenagers, however I still think this Teen Second Life is inappropriate. My number one concern is the clothing and look of each person. “Teenagers” are considered 7th grade to 12th grade. I don’t think this overall look of this MUVE would be good in an educational setting, especially with middle school students. I think there are mixed messages being sent.

Online chatting is great because it is a nice way to communicate with friends and family, however we all know online chatting is not always safe. I would feel uncomfortable if I was integrating a MUVE into my lesson and some inappropriate chatting was taking place. For this reason, I believe parents would have to be educated and understand the point and purpose of the MUVE as well.

I am excited about new technology and I am eager to integrate it into my classroom if it will be beneficial to my students. I do see an educational value to using a MUVE, however I think because it is so new to me I would need more time exploring them and hopefully by that time any negative questions or thoughts I may have about MUVEs will be worked out by other teachers or the creators.

Ahlam said...

I would incorporate MUVEs into my classroom. I do know that it could be a good and bad thing depending on the way it is presented and used. MUVEs allow students to explore for themselves. The River City Project is amazing. I think that students would learn a lot from being able to figure out the problem and solve. Of course, this does not mean that students should go outside and explore hands-on, but kids need a little bit of both. There are things on the internet that we cannot create in our classroom. Students are able to interview, form hypotheses and come to a conclusion all in one game where they are fully engaged. The precautions taken also impressed me. Chatting on these MUVEs mentioned in the article needs parent permission by faxing over the application. Also, River City is only given to schools and students can only chat with thier team members which will ease teachers' and parents' minds. I do have some concerns about the negative effects MUVEs may have on our culture. Also, hopefully MUVEs will not become a replacement for education or entertainment.
As far as Second Life, I agree with the article about the issue The Wilderness Vs. Home because the traditional user will feel lost because they will not know the rules of what controls them in second life. They will find it hard to move and not know the keys to use. Whereas, the digital user will be comfortable in their "home" because it is not new to them. They play many games and the controls are similar to get around.
Another issue was the Purpose vs. Experience. The traditional users will need to know the purpose before they go out and begin exploring. They need to know what is expected of them so they can do it and be done with it. Whereas, the digital users on the other hand will want the experience. The digital users would rather figure out the purpose on their own through the experience. The traditional users would want to have the purpose given to them and the digital users would rather figure it out on their own.

Jenn Barczyk said...

I do not think that I am ready to use MUVE’s in my classroom. First, I haven’t seen very many applications for Language & Literature. Second, I have a lot of reservations about security for the programs that would be used at the secondary level. After reading the article about Second Life, I was actually pretty inspired to investigate further and see how I could use Tenn Second Life. However, I ran into so many disappointments, I found the program to be completely invalid for my purposes.

I created an account and downloaded the program onto my computer. Then, to begin, I had to change the color settings on my screen. Once I figured that out, I went through a series of security agreements, for which I am actually thankful. I then waited seven log-ins in a row for the program to begin. Each time, it locked up, and had to be restarted. I decided to try it out on my husband’s newer, better computer, instead. Once I finished creating a new character and downloading it onto his computer, the program actually loaded. However, it took about five minutes for the initial screen to finish loading. It was difficult to move because there was so much lag, and the directions in the upper left hand corner came up blurry for about a minute before clearing up each time there was something new to do. As a “noob” there were plenty of new things to do. I immediately observed some chat happening, in which everyone was being asked where they were from. Most listed countries of origin, instead of specifics. Even so, I didn’t like that this was the first question I witnessed. As I began to move my curvy, busty female character around (the only shape available), I was approached by another character. He asked me where I was from, and I told him the U.S. Within two minutes of being logged on, I was asked about my location, and more importantly, my email address. I was a bit shocked that so quickly another character was ready to take the dialogue out of the security of the program. As we chatted, I noticed that I could gesture. I was disappointed when I realized the gestures included kiss, hey baby, and others I could not accept in my classroom. I was angry when I realized one of the gestures was smoking! For me, that was enough to refute all of the benefits listed in the article about Second Life.

While I realize the author was talking about Second Life, not Teen Second Life, the latter is the one we would be more likely to use in the classroom. I found the physical characteristics of the avatars disturbing, because of the exaggeration of bust, hips, and overall curves. I realized that, even though the site itself may be secure, there is no guarantee our kids wouldn’t take their conversations off of the site, as I was requested to do. Further, I could not condone the sexual nature of some gestures, and would never suggest a program in which my underage kids would be allowed to have their underage characters smoking. I realize that other programs definitely offer greater educational value and do not endorse inappropriate behavior, but I think that the delivery of the program matters a lot to this generation. This program was a real pain to access, and once accessed, it was so “laggish” that it wasn’t even fun. In order to appeal to our kids, programs will have to be much easier to navigate. I’m just not confident we’re there yet.

Jeff Bouwman said...

Looking at the articles, I can see how utilizing MUVEs would be effective. The River City Project and Quest Atlantis looked interesting. I wish I had a little more time to look more in depth. With MUVEs students must use problem solving skills, standards and benchmarks are being incorporated, and most important students are engaged. However, I tend to see a MUVE as a video game. Is a MUVE a video game? If experts can make a pitch to use MUVEs, how come we are not using Super Mario in school? I mean you have to use problem solving skills to stomp gumbas and avoid flame-throwing plants as you jump over pipes. One must use number sense when collecting coins. For instance, if you have 76 coins, you need 24 more to get an extra life. I know this seems silly, but how do you draw the line?

One huge concern that I have with MUVEs, is I can see where they become addictive. Growing up I was only allowed to play Mario, Donkey Kong and Duck Hunt when it was raining outside. I might have been allowed an extra 15 minutes here and there when I helped out around the house. I really worry about today's kids. They seem so lazy to me! I had several kids who hated going out for recess last year. I don't understand this. Reading through some journals, I noticed that a majority of my students spend a ton of time every night surfing the web, playing video games, etc. Kids need to get outside more! Run around, shoot hoops, be active, be healthy. I see MUVEs keeping kids from being active and healthy. I don't want to ban MUVEs, I just hope that parents can keep his/her student active and healthy, and limit the amount of time they spend in front of the computer. The number of Presidential and National Award winners at our school has been on a steady decline for the last few years. I'm not placing the total blame on video games, but too many kids would rather be Chauncey Billups on a video game over being Chauncey Billups on their own driveway with a real basketball in hand.

In the second article I found argument number 2 to be interesting. The veteran teacher goes to an expert, and a digital learner figures out hands on. I think I would be the digital learner according to this article. I'm probably "the one who runs down the hill to see what is on the other side." I have a hard time going to an expert to show me everything about something new. Instead, I like a little advice, and I want to figure out the rest on my own.

Sister Ghazala said...

Since this class started in June to this date, I look at myself as a very different teacher. teaching is my passion and I try to collect (and use) as many tools as I can to make myself a better teacher. I know I am going to include wiki (as my class page and collaborative tool), My blog, podcast, digital video etc., but I am not comfortable using MUVEs as a teaching tool. In my opinion, kids have all the excuses in the world to spend their time glued to TV, computer, and digital games' screens, inactive, and indoor. Personally, I am not into it because I think we as teachers need to create a balance and teach our students in the most useful way that would help them mentally and physically. Digital games are too fast paced. I do find some good in them because the manufacturers are trying to get these games into education by including some educational aspects related to science, math etc. as we noticed in whyville or second life etc. I think all these games have some addictive nature, and students can’t seem to get enough of them. I may sound very negative, but really I am not ready to include MUVEs, because, I think it will give our students another excuse to be inactive.

Mrs. Rizzo said...

I am on the fence about MUVEs. I feel some are very useful in developing analytical/problem solving skills. I see how Whyville could build teamwork and social skills as kids work together to solve the Whypox epidemic; however I still think that kids need to be up and moving. If they could literally take a field trip to a science center where they could see the research in action and perhaps participate, isn't that better? I disagree with a comment made in this article about revamping how science is taught through interaction rather than trough books. My understanding of how science teachers teach is through a combination of both. If a student uses a computer to learn, aren't they in fact still reading? Science teachers also try to get students to interact through various individual and group projects that require hands on experiences and creation of hypothesis and plans to prove or disprove a hypothesis. I guess I don't see MUVEs as the BEST way to teach subjects, yet. I do agree that they should be included in curriculums, but I also feel students should be given the opportunity to learn and discover in Real-world settings too.
The second article was also very interesting. Virtual Bacon almost seemed a bit over the top as far as Second Life being this great virtual world that all must get involved in. Although virtual environments can be useful, I still feel that real-world interaction is necessary for children/adults to build skills necessary to survive. I keep thinking of the Blackout we had a few years back. What would people do if this happened again (on a larger scale)? Could people handle being in the real world? Would they have the social know how to get help, or find a friend? Virtual worlds can make the world seem smaller, and maybe even closer (friendlier), but what happens when everything is shut down?
As far as the seven issues described, I liked the Re-Create v. Create issue where digital educators were would prefer to meet students in non-traditional classrooms. I personally would love to meet at the beach during a beautiful sunset, and I think this is a creative way to engage students in a lesson from time to time.
I thought Purpose v. Experience and Process/Structure v. Outcome were interesting issues. I don't think there is any problem with asking for help in a virtual environment, however. It seems as though Virtual Bacon thinks asking is bad. Why can't we ask for help? Isn't the virtual world also social? Some people may feel good about themselves being able to help others. I think learning through discovery is a powerful skill, but sometimes questions arise.
I feel like the traditional educator is sort of put down here. Although a traditional educator may be set in their ways, where the digital educator may be ever changing, there is something to be said about some structure in education. The traditional educator may want to find ways to fit technology into their current practices, where digital may want to change things altogether, which can be somewhat chaotic, causing frustration for learners. We simply need to start somewhere. This won’t happen overnight, but if we take steps to incorporate technology into what we already know, it will eventually be a common part of our daily practices.

Anya said...

The world of MUVE allows children to create their own world, relate to others in it, and try to figure out some problems that, up until now, adults have to face. It creates an environment that fosters problem-solving skills and critical thinking, but I often wonder in a world where face-to-face interaction is decreasing, do MUVE’s help increase this rate? If a students spend large amounts of time in MUVE’s will they lose sight of reality? When students come back to the real world and face real problems, will they get frustrated because some of their fantasy solutions did not work? I do think River City, which allows children to interact in a group or team format, helps develop students team-building skills. Whyville is great because of all the corporations that have invested in parts of the “city”. Both of these MUVE’s take critical thinking to another level. However, I question why it is so easy for corporations and companies to create “places” to conduct research in MUVE’s and not do the same in a real classroom. I am not suggesting that they not tap into a world that children are actively learning in. But, I would have loved to have a real-life version of the WASA center in my science classroom. I would have been full of excitement to see a spectrograph machine in my classroom and try out some of the things that I would do in Whyville. This to me, helps students relate the things that they do in Whyville to various subject areas.
As it relates to the 2nd article, I can definitely see teachers playing it safe and wanting to know the next step. We plan our lessons in a step-by-step manner and this tends to spill over into our personal life. When the author discusses issue 4-Process/Structure v. Outcome, I can see some teachers in my school that may do this and probably try to create classrooms, try to mandate that the children who are on the imagiLEARNING island must attend “classes” on a regular basis or else, and form a teacher’s union on the island. I think in a MUVE you should allow yourself to create your own world. I would be the teacher teaching class on the clouds. I would create my own sets of rules and do things that administrators would frown upon.
What can I say I am a Digital Native (Marc Prensky) and eager to explore a MUVE. I believe that it can be good for an escape from reality when you need it, but for children it should not be there only reality. With technology, as Stein said, “Here’s another function that you can spend many hours of your life using!”, students must know when to take a break from MUVE reality and come back to reality. We as teachers must take what students find interesting on MUVE and re-create much like the teacher in the article did when she had her students brainstorm about why they were virtually dying from disease.

Anonymous said...

I think these environments allow students to experience something they have never experienced before. I liked how the article discussed learning about Rome and that the MUVE helped them experience it better than looking at pictures in a book. For example students who participate in River City have to test water quality and collect samples. How can students who live in a major city with little access to a body of water able to test it and collect samples? With MUVES students can experience this without leaving the classroom or signing a permission slip! I think one effect that I have noticed with students spending so much time on the internet and text messaging is that it seems that they have lost some socialization skills. I know this may seem like a strange thought considering everything I just mentioned is socializing but I mean in the context of speaking with someone who is physically in front of you. I’ve noticed sometimes myself that I prefer to order something on the internet as opposed to going to the store and dealing with salespeople. I’m afraid this could negatively effect students. However, I do feel MUVES have great educational value and I think students would be receptive to them. I think they will do a lot for the educational system. In a world where I can order pizza over the internet and have it delivered 20 minutes later we just need to remember to teach them how to deal with each other as humans too.

I used to think others who argued that teachers didn’t want to implement technology because they were afraid of being were ridiculous. I take it back! With MUVES possibly replacing online classes that theory may not be too far from coming to fruition. The idea of Create vs. Recreate was extremely fascinating. It got me to thinking how I am learning now. I am sitting in a comfortable chair, listening to my favorite music while completing my work. Being able to do such helps me learn and keeps my interest up. By allowing students to meet and learn in a relaxed environment away from chairs and desks in my opinion is just what the doctor ordered! We need to stop looking at technology as an add-on but as the way an education should be attained.

ftillmn said...

Well, these were very interesting articles. I’d never really thought about students spending excessive time on these sites. Nor had I considered a lot of detriments that could develop from using MUVES. I initially felt pretty optimistic and open minded about the whole concept, but; to consider other possibilities make me think or consider the possible down side of using this technology is something I hadn’t done. I always considered the students having limited and supervised time on these sites, however; if it wasn’t limited or monitored, then of course it could have negative impacts on students. Too much of anything, good or bad, can have a negative impact. Students spending too much time on these sites could create other problems when trying to go back to “traditional teaching”. Moderation and diverse methods of teaching is what makes learning balanced and fun. You may have some students who may learn the idea of a concept better from MUVES. On the other hand, some may learn that same information better from lecture and regular paper/pencil evaluations. Providing a different opportunity for students to learn is the perspective that I would look at incorporating MUVES or any other form of teaching.

I think that incorporating these aspects would help students matriculate in the real world. I think that it would somewhat give them an idea of how life operates to a small degree. Depending on the MUVE, I think it could provide a sensible understanding about real life. For instance, in Whyville, in the CDC, area in particular, students can get an idea about issues the science community face when it comes to how germs, sickness, and diseases spread.

By no means do I believe that MUVES should replace “traditional” methods of teaching. I believe it has its place to provide an alternative as well as a supplement to learning. The positives outweigh the negatives in my opinion.

I do however, disagree with Bacon in the article that the virtual world/technology is replacing traditional Web-based delivery and traditional Web-based education. To take that perspective will launch a lot of rejection in using this form of technology from “starchy traditional teachers”. In fact, I understand why those who have been teaching a certain method for many years may be reluctant to embrace these “new ideas” The old saying “why re-invent the wheel?” would probably fit their argument. I don’t think that it should by any mean replace those “traditional” forms. I believe that balanced methods of teaching could enhance and make it better for the students in the long run.

Scott Just said...

Reading the articles all I could think of was Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash, a modern science fiction classic from 1992. It was the work that popularized the term avatar, for online virtual counter parts.

The book goes into great detail discussing the reality that was created on line, the Metaverse, and what people do there. It sounds and looks like Second Life. He book points out various issues within the virtual world namely virus’s effect on real people. Great book, it is hard to believe it is 15 years old. The virtual world of the book had bars, concert venues and other real world constructs just as Second Life does.

My only concern for MUVEs would be at what age are students to be exposed to them and how. Students are learning social norms and ques while at school and having o learn online rules and cues as well as what is expected real world may be problematic for some. How would prolonged exposure and emersion in such a virtual world hardwire students’ neural pathways?

Once some common perimeters can be established as to age and access, the possible learning opportunities are unlimited. Students would be highly motivated to solve issues to keep their avatar alive and well as well as the surrounding community. The virtual worlds offer many experiences that can not be easy obtained in a traditional classroom. All allowing learning without students knowing it, something we as teachers have to offer, over traditional instruction and assessment.

The topic vs. outcome based networks is a keen insight that I never thought of before. The web is a level field that people associate with other like minded people not by their jobs or social strata. They are connected by tasks and how to accomplish them. This truly has the ability to connect diverse groups like no other, it very well could destroy Milgram’s Six degrees of separation, connecting otherwise distant contacts.

I too suffer from the create vs. re-create issue at times and struggle to break out of the traditional methods. For me it is a lack of imagination at first but after teaching it or twice I tweak it and keep improving.
The article also mentions the culture taking force in the metraverse/ web. Which raises the question is it culture in a anthropological definition of culture? It is a culture that is electron based, no power, no culture.

The prospect of taking kids on a virtual field trip to colonial times, the old west or anywhere else opens up endless possibilities. Second Life even offers discounts to educational institutions’ that set up campus’s there.