Practical Advise for Virtual Worlds and Learning

Theory To Date: I’ve been studying the current literature on gaming, virtual worlds and learning for a book I’m writing with Charles Wankel, co-author of Virtual Worlds in Higher Education. The case studies are all so great. There is so much literature appearing and I’m glad to report: the field has arrived. In addition to Tony O’Driscoll and Karl Kapp’s contribution 3D Learning will easily become a study guide for everyone developing in the field. Aimee Weber’s, et. als. book called creating your world, (although SL viewer 1.23 and not the new 2.1 interface) is a hallmark and follow these instructions and get these results.

Call to Action: I trust the theory: communications, HCI, semiotics, situated cognition, learning archtypes, following Gagne and Briggs, Clark, Bandura, Rhinegold. I love it all. What we need now I think is a book for the average instructor. I think it’s time to start laying down some practical advise on how to do it. This means lesson plans, curriculum, programs, and of course back it up with research. But, we need the Dummies Guide to Education and Virtual Worlds.

A Practical Way of Putting Games in Education. Richard Fertig at U. Florida in his book Handbook of Research on Effective Electronic Gaming in Education offered some. Let me reshare it. Let me just use a poetic format to do it.

“Specifically, an effective video game
will allow players to choose
the difficulty level of the video game
and gradually increase the challenge
as a player’s skill increases.

Skills learned in the beginning of a game
should be practiced
to the point of automatization and
continually utilized as new skills are practiced.

Educational video games should
be made to take advantage of the ability
to provide immediate feedback.
The system of reinforcement is a critical
component of an educational video game.

The most effective games at motivating players will
make use of both extrinsic reinforcement
(e.g., points or impressive visual effects)
and intrinsic reinforcement
(e.g., a sense of accomplishment
or competence”.

Analysis: Okay, like poetry, the advise is sound, the measure and beat tied sweetly to the message. Here’s what I think this poem said. Make it easy, then make it hard. Make it stick. Tell them when they’ve done good, and fix them when they did it wrong. That way they’ll be smart.

Doin’ It. Now I want to move from poetry to hard core to do lists.

1) Limit your virtual world learning to no more than 15 people.

2) Meet in a virtual world at least 3 hours per week in a group.

3) Encourage 3 hours per week of smaller group meetings with a mentor.

4) On the first day, teach everyone to navigate, communicate and move objects by going to go find stuff and show you they found it.

5) After you do that, give everyone their own work space.

6) Give them something to build immediately. Start with a box. Have them number each side of the box with a texture.

7) Turn the box around so everyone has a 4 lined up in rows.

8) Turn the boxes so every box turns to #2 simultaneously.

9) Repeat that with another object like a circle.

10) Give the students 5 minutes to line up the boxes or circles up from 1-15 in five minutes.

11) Pick the best students and the leaders for the next session and ask them to meet with the other students before next class.

12) At the start of the next class, repeat exercise above and give out an award for doing it under 5 minutes.

Get “R Done (Borrowed from Larry the Cable Guy). You now have a formula for the first 3 hours of class, the in-between practice class, and the beginning of the next class. When you state the rules, provide ownership of space with tools that enable the learners, and walk through a concrete task with a concrete outcome, you’ll get results. Add people and cooperation, a use of the menu and a real use of the 3D object space like you’re really in the place, you’ll get 3D learning results.

Challenge: Now, please write me a lesson plan and send it to me at so I can include it in the book.

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