Learning and teaching in virtual worlds
While the concept of multi-user virtual worlds is not a new one, the rising popularity of virtual world applications has been rapid over the last five years. Although much attention around such immersive environments has centred upon Second Life, there are currently 80 virtual world applications available and another 100 planned for 2009, with some targeting specific populations (e.g., young girls with BarbieGirls) and others catering for broader audiences (e.g., training applications in There.com). The appeal of virtual worlds is that they allow users to cross over into new spaces that can be used to support a range of social interactions. In this way, they have proven to be quite versatile, embracing varied activities and purposes, including business, cultural activities as well as having educational capabilities.
With its focus upon the educational uses of virtual world applications, this special issue of the British Journal of Educational Technology (Volume 40, Issue 6) aims to provide a definitive profile of the current status of virtual worlds for education and training. Specifically, we invite contributions from the research community to advance our understanding of this field of study and research. In order to build upon existing research, and to support the development of the field as a unique academic discipline, in this unique issue the editors are interested in hosting a forum for rigorous and leading edge contributions to the nascent field that:
- explore new frameworks, approaches and pedagogical models,
- present case studies of practice where innovative techniques are pioneered,
- investigate new methods of teaching, learning and research in the area,
- evaluate the experiences of teachers, learners and institutions using immersive worlds.
The aim of the special issue is to bring together the most leading edge research and development in the field and allow practitioners and researchers to benefit from these valuable contributions. Towards this aim, recommended topics of interest for this special issue include, but are not limited to, the following research questions:
- What value can virtual world applications add to conventional methods of education and what evidence exists to support such propositions?
- What are the institutional changes needed to accommodate learning approaches centred on virtual worlds?
- What pedagogies and approaches are needed to make the use of virtual world applications most effective and engaging, and what evidence exists to support such approaches?
- Are particular learner groups engaged more with virtual world applications than others?
- What are the main challenges for tutors and trainers using virtual world technologies?
- What are the main technological challenges associated with using virtual world applications?
- What frameworks and approaches can be developed to support effective, engaging and transformative usage of virtual worlds?
- Does the use of virtual worlds necessitate more learner-centred approaches? What evidence exists to support claims for or against such approaches?
- Will using these applications change how people learn? If so, what evidence exists to support such a claim?
- Do virtual world applications offer greater support than alternative technologies for building and supporting distributed learning communities?
- How do learners experience virtual worlds? How do they experience their interactions with others?
- How do learners choose to represent themselves in virtual worlds?
The issue also envisages contributions that relate to a wider range of virtual world applications particularly where learning and training issues are highlighted. Studies focusing upon massively multiplayer role-playing games (e.g. World of Warcraft), mirror worlds (e.g. Google earth) and hybrid worlds (e.g. mixed reality experiences) will also be considered for the issue where they make sure that the focus is upon learning activities and practices and where lessons learnt may be applied to virtual worlds for learning.
The issue will also be twinned with the First International IEEE Conference on Serious Games and Virtual Worlds which will be held in March 2009 at the University of Coventry, UK.
April 1, 2009: Full length papers due (see http://www.blackwellpublishing.com/submit.asp?ref=0007-1013&site=1 for guidelines). Please send an email to the editors with the title of your submission and submit your paper online using Manuscript Central. To make a submission, go to http://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/bjet. If this is the first time you have used the system you will be asked to register by clicking on ‘create an account.’ Full instructions on making your submission are provided. You should receive an acknowledgement within a few minutes. Thereafter, you will be kept in touch with the progress of your submission through refereeing, any revisions that are required, and – hopefully – to final acceptance.
Please advise Sara de Freitas that you have made a submission for the special issue. If you do not then it will be treated as an ordinary submission for a subsequent general issue
June 1, 2009: Notification of acceptance
July 1, 2009: Final papers with revisions due
November, 2009: Publication date
Note: Submissions to the Crossing boundaries Serious Games and Virtual Worlds conference to be held at Coventry University in March 2009 that fit the purpose of this call may be recommended for co-submission to the special issue. Authors will be contacted directly where this is the case so that they can revisit the paper for the BJET special issue review process. Successfully reviewed papers will be processed by BJET in the normal way and according to the normal peer-review procedures. For those wishing to submit papers to the conference, details can be found at: http://www.sgandvwconference.net/announcement.asp?event=42
Special Issue Editors
Dr. Sara de Freitas B.A. (Hons), M.A., PhD
Sara de Freitas is Director of Research at the hub for research and development in serious games and virtual worlds at the Serious Games Institute at the University of Coventry, UK. Her research interests include evaluating the efficacy of serious games and virtual world applications, pedagogic modelling and policy and strategic development of e-learning. Sara chairs the Lab Group, speaks internationally and has a significant publications list in the field of e-learning, game-based learning and lifelong learning. Sara also holds a visiting fellowship at the University of London where she continues to build on leading edge research in the field at the London Knowledge Lab. She currently has four books in publication and is setting up an interdisciplinary research group focusing upon artificial intelligence, evaluation and validation for immersive forms and developing links between physical and virtual spaces through smart buildings. (Address: Sara de Freitas, PhD, Serious Games Institute, University of Coventry, Cheetah Road, Coventry, CV1 2TL, United Kingdom; s.defreitas|at|coventry.ac.uk).
Dr. George Veletsianos B.A., M.A., Ph.D
George Veletsianos is Lecturer of Digital Technologies, Communication & Education at the University of Manchester, UK. His research interests involve the design, development, and evaluation of electronic learning environments, adventure learning, emerging technologies in distance and hybrid education, virtual characters, and the learner experience. His research and development work has been published in excess of 30 times in articles and manuscripts in academic journals, books, and conference proceedings, while his work has been presented at over 40 national and international conferences. (Address: George Veletsianos, PhD, LTA, School of Education, Ellen Wilkinson Building, University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester, M13 9PL, United Kingdom; veletsianos|at|gmail.com)
I am very excited to announce a CFP on the use of emerging technologies in distance education. Specifics are listed below. The CFP can also be downloaded in pdf form.
CALL FOR CHAPTER PROPOSALS
Proposal Submission Deadline: September 1, 2008
Using Emerging Technologies in Distance Education
edited by George Veletsianos (University of Manchester, UK)
Part of the Issues in Distance Education series
edited by Terry Anderson (Athabasca University, Canada)
and planned publication online and in paper format by Athabasca University Press as an
Open Access publication
Emerging technologies – such as virtual worlds, serious games, wikis, and social networking sites – have been heralded as technologies that are powerful enough to transform learning and teaching. Nevertheless, minimal work has investigated the affordances of such tools in the context of distance education. Most often, the literature presents a description of such technologies along with classroom integration ideas, presenting an incomplete picture of how such technologies are used in distance education. In particular, the goal of this book is to amalgamate work in the use of emerging technologies to design, enhance and deliver distance education. Researchers and practitioners interested in the above issues reside in varied academic domains, rendering the sharing and dissemination of their work a formidable task. Via this book, we hope to harness dispersed knowledge and multidisciplinary perspectives. The target audience is both members of research communities and innovative distance education practitioners.
The book will be limited to the use of emerging technologies for distance education. Recommended emerging technologies of interest for the book include, but are not limited, to:
• Microblogging platforms,
• Wikis and Wikibooks
• Social Networking Sites
• Virtual worlds
• Video games
• Cell/mobile phones and devices,
• Virtual characters, Avatars, and Pedagogical Agents
• Web 2.0 and data mashups
• Pod and video casts
• Online grassroots video
• Open Educational Resources and Open Access Technologies
• Pod usage production models
The book will consist of chapters (5,000 – 8,000 words) showcasing best practices, illustrating and analyzing how emerging technologies have been used in diverse distance learning and teaching areas. Via such work, it is expected that each chapter will contribute a list of ideas and factors that need to be considered when emerging technologies are adopted for distance teaching and learning. Equally important, contributing authors should highlight the pedagogical, organizational, cultural, social, economic, or political factors that influence the adoption and success/failure of emerging technologies.
This book is intended to be used as a one stop locale for work relating to the use of emerging technologies in distance education. As such, it is expected to be relevant to researchers, practitioners, and students. Importantly, due to the fact that interested parties reside in multiple disciplines and academic departments, chapters should be accessible to a broad audience.
By September 1, 2008: Submit a 1-2 page chapter proposal summarizing the intended submission.
Papers should be submitted via email to: veletsianos |AT| gmail.com
October 1, 2008: Author notification along with chapter guidelines
December 1, 2008: Full chapters are due.
All submitted chapters will be reviewed on a double-blind review basis.
Expected Publication date is late 2009.
In the spirit of sharing, and with permission Dr. Justus Randolph, I’d like to draw your attention to the following message. Personally, I was looking for such a book, and the fact that Justus has made in freely available is more than generous – Hurray for open and shareable educational materials!
Dear e-learning colleagues,
As a professional courtesy, I would like to inform you of a free e-book, Multidisciplinary Methods in Educational Technology Research and Development, recently published by HAMK University of Applied Sciences Press. In that text I theoretically and empirically chart the methods currently being used in our field and also provide information on planning, conducting, and reporting educational technology research and development projects. I hope that you will find it to be a useful text for educational technology research methods courses, a helpful resource for conducting (or supervising) research, and a rich source of empirical information on the art and science of educational technology research.
In the spirit of the open education movement, this is a free resource that you are welcome to use, reproduce, and distribute as you see fit, barring commercial uses or derivate works. It can be downloaded from:
How do we design for engagement? This is a question that has hovered over my shoulders for a while. Although not explicitly verbalized it is part of my work with avatars, pedagogical agents, and virtual characters. For example, see this paper in the British journal of Educational Technology. In addition, in my dissertation, I also argue that pedagogical agents/virtual characters may incite such deep and engaging experiences so as to distract learners from the task they are engaged with (I am of course talking about the conversational type agents and NOT the passive pedagogical agents that prominently appear in instructional design research – yes, I am being sarcastic). Outside of my tiny little contributions, others have thought about this issue. Pat Parrish, drawing on the work of Dewey and others, has written extensively on learner engagement. Charlie Miller, coming for an interaction design perspective, has also talked about engagement. And, the other day, a blog by Joseph from BYU, noting sister issues of engagement, emotion, and narrative. Granted, the ID field has for long (and long overdue) been focusing on information delivery and wow-look-at-what-this-can-do, but I think there are enough people thinking and writing about learner engagement, that the topic may gain prominence – as it should.
Back to the original question: How do we design for engagement? Honestly, if I knew how to verbalize this, I would probably write it up. But, I have a few ideas. First, I think that this question spurs multiple other questions. For example, how do K-12 teachers engage children? What are the characteristics of engaging lessons? What are the characteristics of engaging learners? Note that I am writing about characteristics in qualitative (and possibly interpretive, and further, possibly phenomenological) terms. What are the characteristics of boring lessons? What are the characteristics of engaging electronic learning environments/experiences? What is the process of engagement? How do we measure engagement? Again, I think that “measuring” engagement should be done in qualitative terms – this is a poor way of measuring something as malleable and inherent to our existential being, but it’s at least a start. Could we provide some sort of guidelines for the design of engaging electronic learning experiences? What does social psychology say about this? More on the last question in an upcoming post…
A set of preliminary ideas that I have is that “fun” has a lot to do with it. The HCI field discussed funology for a while, but I haven’t seen anything recently. Additionally, I think that a sense of achievement, contribution, belongingness, ability to change things, and purpose, matter. That’s an initial list, and it is very rough. There are numerous other ideas that need to be covered, including aesthetics, transformational learning, and, alas, the learner. But, I’ll leave that for a different time because I need to do some dissertation work.