What are Virtual Worlds?

The capability of virtual worlds has expanded considerably in the past few years, with enormous development in building tools, climate simulators, physics engines, and the overall capability of these platforms to simulate reality. A growing number of Internet users have an avatar in a virtual world, and hundreds of platforms to allow those avatars places to interact are already available or in development. Virtually every higher education institution has some sort of work going in around virtual spaces, and in just one platform alone, Linden Lab’s Second Life®, thousands of educational projects and experiments are actively underway. Early projects that drew heavily on real-world forms and practices gradually have given way to more experimental ventures that take advantage of the unique opportunities afforded by virtual worlds and other immersive digital environments. Now we are seeing increased use of these spaces for truly immersive forms of learning and for a level of collaboration that is erasing traditional boundaries and borders rapidly. The technology that supports virtual worlds is advancing at a rapid rate, paving the way for more realistic environments, connections between different platforms, and new ways to enter and use virtual spaces. As participation and development both continue to increase, these environments are becoming ever more interesting spaces with obvious potential for teaching, learning, and creative expression.

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

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  • Sometimes the relevancy does not lie in the technology being what is most preferred by students. Sometimes it depends on what they are allowed to use in shcool. Virtual World may not be on the top of any student's "go to" list, but compared to a text book and lecture it is a breath of fresh air! [user:jan.morrison|1329436878]]
  • Virtual worlds open doors to virtual exchanges and field trips where students could visit places and see things that they would otherwise never have access to. There are many great virtual museums to visit, as well as other places to explore that could greatly enhance student appreciation for art, different places, different cultures. - cristiana.mattos cristiana.mattos Mar 4, 2012

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

  • It would be interesting to mention OpenSim, which uses open resources and allows for schools to host the virtual world in their servers, being more accessible to K12 students, as you can have a more controlled environment. - cristiana.mattos cristiana.mattos Mar 4, 2012
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(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on teaching, learning, or creative expression?

  • Students can re-create their own city in a virtual world, and invite others to visit. It would allow them to use design skills, engineering, science, math and many other subjects when trying to build a world of their own that is functional. At the same time, they could be building their social skills, leadership abilities, group work, and many other skills required when working with teams on a big project. - cristiana.mattos cristiana.mattos Mar 4, 2012
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(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?

Please share information about related projects in our Horizon K-12 Project form.