Last weekend’s On the Media on NPR had an interesting feature on Second Life, the online virtual world that is all the rage these days. The largest portion of the piece was devoted to describing how former Virginia governor and likely presidential candidate Mark Warner held a news conference in Second Life recently. Just when you thought you were safe from candidate blogs…
The Second Life phenomenon is really fascinating. I’ve never been much of a gamer, but I think it’s crucial for teachers to understand the gaming world as much as possible. The point from the report that hit home most with me was from one of the guests who suggested that elements of our “first lives” (the real world) will need to become more game-like as more people become comfortable with artificial worlds. In other words, we begin to relate to real-world situations through the lens of video games and virtual worlds.
I guess I’ll reserve judgement for now on whether or not that would be a good thing. I do know that we should be using games and game-like simulations more effectively for teaching and learning. My recent experience as a student in the ITIL class is a perfect example. We sat for over two days paging through PowerPoint slides trying to absorb material. It would have been so much more interesting to learn the ITIL processes in a simulated environment where the “player” has to manage an IT department and his or her success depends on the extent to which the ITIL processes are implemented correctly. Will we ever get to the point that using immersive simulations is the norm?
I can think of a million other examples of learning through games and simulations. (And I’m sure many of these have been done.) Some examples: learn about the election process by managing a candidate’s campaign or being a candidate in a virtual world yourself; learn ecology by managing a virtual national park and ensuring that animal and plant populations remain viable; learn French by teleporting to a French-speaking world (need better speech recognition for this one); lean about viruses by becoming one and figuring out how to defeat a body’s immune system. Here’s something you can take to the bank: tomorrow’s technology will be cheaper and faster than today’s. Within ten years we will have cheap virtual reality technology that will allow students to enter these simulations in ways that we can barely imagine now.
Are teachers ready for this change? Can you imagine the professional development challenges that await us?
second life, otm, on the media, mark warner, gaming, npr, simulations