Identity, Learning and Support in Virtual Environments

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  • E D U C A T I O N A L F U T U R E S : R E T H I N K I N G T H E O R Y A N D P R A C T I C E

    Identity, Learning and Support in Virtual Environments

    Sharon TettegahUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA

    and

    Cynthia Calongne (Eds.)Colorado Technical University, USA

    Virtual worlds and other virtual environments offer an adaptable context for applied and situated learning experiences. In this book, educators, instructional designers, librarians, administrators and scholars refl ect on how to leverage constructivist, authentic, collaborative and complex interactive educational experiences through the use of these multisensory environments.

    Explore the intersection of presence, personal and group identity, culture, immersive learning experiences, multiuser virtual environments (MUVEs) and massive multiplayer online roleplaying games (MMORPGs) with eleven multidisciplinary researchers. The examples range from K-12 to university educational experiences and highlight critical information from a variety of MUVEs, such as Second Life, Active Worlds, There, and several MMORPGs, including Ultima Online, Everquest and the World of Warcraft.

    E D U C A T I O N A L F U T U R E S : R E T H I N K I N G T H E O R Y A N D P R A C T I C E

    Identity, Learning and Support in Virtual Environments

    Sharon Tettegah and Cynthia Calongne (Eds.)

    S e n s e P u b l i s h e r s EDFU 36

    Identity, Learning and Support in Virtual EnvironmentsSharon Tettegah and Cynthia Calongne (Eds.)

    S e n s e P u b l i s h e r s

  • Identity, Learning and Support in Virtual Environments

  • EDUCATIONAL FUTURES RETHINKING THEORY AND PRACTICE Volume 36 Series Editors Michael A. Peters University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA Editorial Board Michael Apple, University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA Miriam David, Institute of Education, London University, UK Cushla Kapitzke, Queensland University of Technology, Australia Simon Marginson, University of Melbourne, Australia Mark Olssen, University of Surrey, UK Fazal Rizvi, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA Linda Tuahwai Smith, University of Waikato, New Zealand Susan Robertson, University of Bristol, UK Scope This series maps the emergent field of educational futures. It will commission books on the futures of education in relation to the question of globalisation and knowledge economy. It seeks authors who can demonstrate their understanding of discourses of the knowledge and learning economies. It aspires to build a consistent approach to educational futures in terms of traditional methods, including scenario planning and foresight, as well as imaginative narratives, and it will examine examples of futures research in education, pedagogical experiments, new utopian thinking, and educational policy futures with a strong accent on actual policies and examples.

  • Identity, Learning and Support in Virtual Environments Sharon Tettegah University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA Cynthia Calongne Colorado Technical University, USA

    SENSE PUBLISHERS ROTTERDAM/BOSTON/TAIPEI

  • A C.I.P. record for this book is available from the Library of Congress. ISBN 978-90-8790-992-5 (paperback) ISBN 978-90-8790-993-2 (hardback) ISBN 978-90-8790-994-9 (e-book) Published by: Sense Publishers, P.O. Box 21858, 3001 AW Rotterdam, The Netherlands http://www.sensepublishers.com Printed on acid-free paper All Rights Reserved 2009 Sense Publishers No part of this work may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, microfilming, recording or otherwise, without written permission from the Publisher, with the exception of any material supplied specifically for the purpose of being entered and executed on a computer system, for exclusive use by the purchaser of the work.

  • v

    TABLE OF CONTENTS

    Chapter 1. An Introduction: Exploring Virtual Spaces 1 Sharon Tettegah THEORETICAL PERSPECTIVES ON VIRTUAL ENVIRONMENTS Chapter 2. Virtual Environment: The Machine is Our World 9 Grant Kien Chapter 3. If the Walls could Talk 23 Alfred Weiss Chapter 4. Education and Virtual Worlds: How Identity and Presence Affect Users Experience 33 Eun Won Whang, Kona Taylor and Timothy Cash APPLICATIONS OF VIRTUAL ENVIRONMENTS IN SECOND LIFE Chapter 5. Challenges and Opportunities in Using MUVEs in K-12 Environments 45 Lisa Perez Chapter 6. Education in Virtual Environments, the Student Experience 57 Rhonda B. Trueman Chapter 7. Pre-Service Teachers in Second Life: The Dichotomy with the Net Generation 65 Jase Teoh BRINGING VIRTUAL ENVIRONMENTS TO LIFE Chapter 8. Effects of Virtual Reality on Learning at a Science Exhibit 87 Arlene de Strulle Chapter 9. Multiuser Virtual Environments (MUVEs) and Massive Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Games (MMORPGs): Reality is for Those Who Cant Face Science Fiction 119 Cynthia Calongne Chapter 10. Virtual Libraries and Education in Virtual Worlds 141 Lori Bell

  • TABLE OF CONTENTS

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    Chapter 11. Conclusion: Merging Realities 151 Virgil Varvel and Alfred Weiss Biographies 157

    Index 161

  • S. Tettegah and C. Calongne (eds.), Identity, Learning and Support in Virtual Environments, 15. 2009 Sense Publishers. All rights reserved.

    SHARON TETTEGAH

    1. AN INTRODUCTION

    Exploring Virtual Spaces

    This book explores the educational use and implications of various virtual environ-ments. We focus on the use of chat spaces, Web 2.0, 3D Web or object oriented/ semantic web (Web 3.0), and virtual environment applications.

    The World Wide Web, Internet and other digital technologies continue to evolve. The evolution is happening so quickly that it is difficult even for scholars and IT professionals to keep current with the latest developments in digital domains such as the new semantic web (Web 2.0). One such area of emerging and rapid development is the use of virtual worlds for e-learning. While virtual learning environments (VLEs) are not a new phenomena (Weiss, Nolan, Hunsinger & Trifonas, 2006) the way that they are defined has been transformed by digital technologies. For the purposes of this book we define VLEs as any space that is used for learning that is different from either formal or informal, brick or mortar classrooms. In particular, we focus on VLEs that are facilitated by electronic technologies with a focus on multi-user virtual environments (MUVEs).

    The use of the term virtual environment has been around for many years. It has been defined and re-defined by scientists, humanitarians and everyday users. The major differences in time and space are not only where, but how is now an important attribute for defining virtual environments. In this book we define virtual environments very broadly. For us the term virtual environment can refer to a web based chat space, content/learning management application, or a three dimensional social virtual world, a massively multi-user online world, or an immersive virtual reality environment. In fact, some consider that the polycom1 provides a virtual environment to users/ learners because the user/learner is not in a shared physical space with all involved in the communication event.

    There have been innumerable discussions over the centuries about what reality is. Although a full discourse on these discussions and debates is well beyond the scope of this introduction, it is important to briefly touch upon the use of the world reality in relationship to virtual environments. When individuals engage in conversations about reality, most mean reality in the physical world. Ive heard conversation about social virtual worlds where the conversant make the distinction between physical and virtual by making references to the real world. The term physical is used instead of real because both physical and virtual are in fact real One exists in the physical/material world and the other in the virtual world, but events in the virtual world are just as real as any event that occurs in the physical/material world. The individuals are real that are using the environments. The only difference is the space. It is a real space but cannot be physically touched

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    by the users. It can be experienced, but the actual body does not have the ability to walk around in it as one can walk around in a room in your house, and engage the physical artefacts. Both experiences are just as real because the experiences are real regardless of the space where the experience happens.

    Multi-user virtual environments, such as social virtual worlds, transcend the static Web pages of Web 1.0 as well as the predetermined applications of Web 2.0 and 3.0. Some considerations given to Web 3.0 include the use of avatars in simulated worlds and other semantic environments (Strickland, 2009). Web 3.0 provide e-ecologies with the capacity to immerse the user in a place that cuts across time and space and affords opportunities for communication, exploration, collaboration, shared inquiry, and formal and informal learning. The chapters in this book introduce the reader to these spaces and the myriad possibilities they represent for the further evolution of education for early childhood, primary, secondary, post-secondary, and lifelong learning environments.

    Our volume poses the following questions: what does it mean to teach and learn within and with social virtual environments? And what does electronic identity, persona or avatar mean? To answer these questions, the authors in this volume argue that we as learners are no longer engaged in one way interactions but we are engaged in complex interactions as we immerse ourselves in virtual and augmented reality spaces. Virtual environments have enabled us to be highly immersed in spaces that yield high social presence, constructivist learning, interactive problem solving, and surprisingly enjoyable and new types of experiences.

    This book is divided into three sections: the first section focuses on theoretical perspectives; the second section focuses on applications of virtual environments with specific attention given to Second Life, and the third section bring virtual environments to life through a variety of discussion on virtual environments including Second Life and immersive spaces.

    Kiens chapter lays out a critical view/definition of virtual environments (VE) foreseeing the futures VEs and the possible effects on society and the ubiquitous nature of VE. He argues there is very little separation between virtual and real. The argument presented here is that both are in fact realities, just different realms, both exist one is more tangible while the other is more non-physical. In other words, physical space has matter and uses many of our senses (i.e., visual, auditory, tactile, taste, olafactory) while virtual spaces use only some of our senses (i.e., visual, auditory). Kien, argues we are on online or using a mobile device 24hours/7 days. Using McLuhan as a springboard for discussion Kien argues the notion of immersion and perspective taking are key for involvement. This type of key involvement can occur with text, television, and audio. It is what Csikszentmihalyi calls Flow. Flow is the mental state of operation in which the person is fully immersed in what he or she is doing by a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990)

    Kien offers us examples of how his grandfather engaged television sports as though he was right there guiding his player of choice on the football field. He describes simulacra very much so similar to the matrix that it cannot help but to engage the reader to wonder where does reality begins and where does it end. He

  • AN INTRODUCTION: EXPLORING VIRTUAL SPACES

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    describes the use and social problems associated with VE, and VE relationships. Through his exploration of different VE platforms, Kien discusses what it means today to exist between and among planes.

    Weiss chapter takes us on a journey through the discussion of multi-user environments with a specific focus. Weiss offers us a view into the virtual world described by Neal Stephensons 1992 novel Snow Crash as a way of introducing the social virtual world Second Life. He argues social virtual worlds such as Second Life for teaching and learning are more flexible, and easier to manipulate, co-create and recreate than physical learning spaces. He follows up with a discussion on the physical space (i.e., brick and mortar classrooms) used for teaching and learning to a brief argument about John Dewey and school design. He concludes with how social virtual worlds like Second Life afford the manipulation of the body, buildings and Web 2.0s characteristics of the semantic web and user created content to develop, and demonstrate sound pedagogy through creativity, meaning and intentionality.

    Whang, Taylor, and Cash provides us with their visualization chapter of avatar identity and presence, and how the interaction between avatar and identity can effect on learning. They consider how thirds spaces have changed over time moving from bookstores and coffee houses to social virtual worlds such as Second Life, Facebook and other social networking applications, and other virtual environments. The focus of their chapter is avatar identity and its influence on presence in Second Life. They argue that Second Life is effective because of its complexity involving the creation of avatar and avatar interactions. For example an avatar can go shopping and gain realistic experiences and provide more opportunity for transference from the social virtual world to the physical world. In their chapter they use the term real world, however, and I argue that both worlds are aspects of reality with the difference being one is tangible (physical) and the other is intangible (virtual). They conclude with suggestions of how social virtual worlds can be used for many other educational opportunities.

    The second section of the book introduces and exposes the reader to several applications of virtual environments with a specific focus on Second Life. Arlene DeStrulles chapter introduces the idea that science and technology has become essential and ubiquitous in our society (c.f. DeStrulle, this book). In her chapter, she investigates the role of virtual reality applications for school-based knowledge and learning. Her research questions guided by the study were: First, what characteristics and influence does virtual reality exhibits to facilitate learning? And second, what are the characteristics and influences that interfere or detract from learning? Her case study provides the reader with a thorough discussion of the visitors who participated in the virtual reality exhibit while visiting the Fleet Science Center. Effects of staff instruction, age-range and gender, audio narration, sound and music, movement, types of images, interactive too...