What are Virtual Worlds?


Virtual worlds garnered a tremendous amount of attention in 2006-2009, when millions of individuals created online avatars and institutions were developing building after building on designated plots of virtual land. In Linden Lab’s Second Life®, world-class universities hosted thousands of educational projects and experiments, from recreating historical spaces to replicating renowned museums and works of art. A lot of energy was devoted to building tools, climate simulators, physics engines, and facilitating the overall capability of these platforms to simulate reality. The idea was that these environments could foster unique and immersive learning opportunities, doing so in a way that uniquely made people feel like that were together in the same place. While the hype around virtual worlds has waned in recent years, there are still compelling developments, mainly in the form of WebGL, a new way of rendering 3D objects in via a web browser, which has been applied in virtual worlds. CloudParty, a Facebook application, is a good example of the capability of WebGL, though it is more of a hangout space and does not have as strong a tie to learning as do other purpose-built spaces. Google is a leading player in academic WebGL technology, and its vast collection of user contributed “Chrome Experiments” range from an interactive timeline of satellite launches to a visualization of connected cells that enable people to create biologically-inspired patterns.

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

  • In the Virtually World of Minecraft people learn naturally through a combination of observation, trial and error, and play-based practice. An open-learning environment like Minecraft allows students the freedom to experiment and challenge themselves. Much like in real life, there are no step-by-step instructions — students must try, fail, and try again to achieve the result they want. To create a fully inclusive classroom, educators are challenged to create learning activities that cater to all types of learners. Learning-by-doing gives students a sense of accomplishment when they can demonstrate their knowledge. And in Minecraft: Education Edition, educators are able to map projects and activities directly to specific learning outcomes and curriculum standards. Minecraft: Education Edition is designed so that students can work in teams to solve problems, or as a whole class to master challenges within the game. Engaging in collaborative work teams and learning environments that foster cooperation in the classroom helps prepare students for their futures. - Kirsten.Panton Kirsten.Panton Nov 17, 2016
  • This has been developing for some time with Second Life, Minecraft and other worlds, but I expect this to take off with new sophisticated worlds as virtual reality environments become more common.~~~~

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

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(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on teaching, learning, or creative inquiry?

  • Enhancing 21st century skills, meeting students in an environment they know and love, giving vast options for interdisciplinary teaching and learning and paving the way for computational thinking and STEM. - Kirsten.Panton Kirsten.Panton Nov 17, 2016
  • Several potential impacts. Especially as online worlds of interaction between students and students and intelligent agents can collaborate on solving tasks. Many possibilities for ways of expressing insight and ways of inquiry based learning.~~~~

(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?



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