Take Your First Virtual Steps
Kids’ participation in virtual environments has
grown exponentially in the last few years. As
educators, we need to understand how our
students interact and learn within them. To truly
understand the experience, we need to address
the uncertainties we might have, create our
own virtual presences, and experience MUVEs
firsthand. We must accept that our students
have grown up primed to participate and achieve
in worlds we have not even imagined. As their
teachers, we need to create opportunities for our
students and assemble the resources they will
need in the future. Fortunately, along the way, our
lives as educators will be enriched in unexpected
ways, and the expression “spread your wings”
will take on a whole new meaning.
Here’s how to get started:
Read, research, learn.
examples that relate to your specific subject
area and grade level.
Connect with like minds.
or state are involved in MUVEs.
interests who participate in virtual worlds to
take you on a tour with their avatars.
Create your virtual self and explore.
experience with it.
your own avatar.
resources and helpful hints.
about asking questions.
Ayiti, which won the Games for
Change GaCha Award for Best Aware-ness-Raising Game, has been played
more than 2 million times and is currently being translated into Chinese.
It’s a perfect example of how virtual
worlds can get young people interested in and active in global issues.
In the summer of 2008, teenagers in
New York and Chicago participated
in a MacArthur Foundation–funded
intensive camp called I Dig Tanzania
that taught them about Tanzania’s culture, politics, and scientific research
while they explored Second Life. Students drove their virtual jeeps through
Virtual Tanzania and saw animated
lions, giraffes, elephants, and hippos.
They spoke with the international
research team in Tanzania via Skype
and debated the topic of ecotourism
at Serengeti and Mount Kilimanjaro.
Then they discussed paleontology and
planned a fossil dig—and that was just
the first day!
Making a Difference in Real Life
What’s great about the Global Kids
projects is that they mix virtual-world
technologies with real-world challenges, engaging young students in socially responsible efforts that can have a
real impact on the world they live in at
the same time that they improve their
chances for a promising future.
“We have to think of ways to use
games not just to escape reality but
to re-engage with reality,” writes MIT
professor Henry Jenkins. “[Global
Kids is] talking about real things that
touch real people.”
The organization’s most recent
project, which involves after-school
programs as well as individual students, is the Dream It. Do it. Initiative
(DIDI), a Second Life partnership
with Ashoka’s Youth Venture. Youth
Venture, whose slogan is “Everyone
a changemaker,” aims to teach young
people how to lead social change and
make an impact on their environment
while gaining skills and the innate
understanding that they can be powerful now and into their adult futures.
DIDI’s specific goal is to improve
health and health care through social
Once in the virtual world of Teen
Second Life, students can teleport to
the DIDI Initiative Island and register
for a workshop to explore possibilities,
identify community issues, and develop action plans to address social and
health issues relating to poverty, food
shortages, discrimination, poor housing, and vulnerable populations. The
program allows teens to become social
entrepreneurs while working in teams
to solve real-life problems. DIDI even
awards particularly worthwhile projects $1,000 in seed money to make
the team’s plans a reality. DIDI also
provides students with technical assistance and ongoing support in the
3Ways to Start a Classroom MUVE
1 Join an established group. Many commercial and private MUVEs welcome newcomers.
2 Share with others. Existing educational sites sometimes offer space to borrow or ent.;Go;to;ISTE;Island;( http://slurl.com/
3 Build your own. This may be the most ambitious option, but it will provide;the;most;flexibility.;You;may
have to purchase virtual real estate,
and you and your students will need to build
online workshops and self-paced tutorials
sell everything from premade trees to
paintings for the walls of your virtual home.
There is also a growing number of
people for hire who will build your virtual
environment for you. Find out how to hire
blog or by searching for Second Life