Sunday, November 08, 2009

Multi-User Virtual Environments for Kids, Teens, & College Students

A while ago, I wrote a post, Interactive Multimedia for Social Skills, Understanding Feelings, Relaxation, and Coping Strategies, that continues to get hits from readers looking for on-line social skills resources.  Since that post, there has been a growing interest in the use of multi-user virtual environments (MUVEs) and related interactive games for children, teens, and young adults.  MUVEs appear to have the potential to help young people develop important social skills, such as cooperation, collaboration, and teamwork.

In this post, I'll focus on Multi-User Virtual Environments (MUVEs) and also take a look at 3D game/virtual world environments designed to support social/communication skills and mental health. 

Whyville was one of the first virtual environments for children, established in 1999.  It is currently sponsored by the Center for Disease Control, the Getty Museum, and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Whyville Virtual World Tour (2008)

Everything Whyville!

Quest Atlantis was created by Sasha Barab, the Jacobs Chair in Learning Sciences, Indiana University.  In classroom settings, students work together on computers as a team to learn science, math, reading, and writing in a game-based virtual environment. The following video is from the Learning Channel. Sasha Barab, Beth Spataro, a teacher, and students discuss their experiences with Quest Atlantis at the Rogers-Herr Middle School in Durham, North Carolina. 

Virtual Mesa Verde

"The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation has granted more than $1.8 million to the Indiana University School of Education to expand the immersive learning environment "Quest Atlantis."...Sasha Barab, associate professor and Jacobs Chair in Learning Sciences and Instructional Systems Technology and the director of the Center for Research on Learning and Technology, created the Quest Atlantis project. It is a learning and teaching tool for students ages 9-12 that uses a 3-D, multiuser environment to immerse children in educational tasks."
Quest Atlantis Research Site
IJLM International Journal of Learning and Media (beta) Transformational Play and Virtual Worlds: Worked Examples From The Quest Atlantis Project
Conceptual Play 
Learning Gains
Thomas, M.K., Barab, S.A., Tuzun, H.  Developing Critical Implementations of Technology-Rich Innovations: A Cross-Case Study of the Implementation of Quest Atlantis (pdf)  J.Educational Computing Research, 41(2) pp. 125-153, 2009.
Barab, S. A., Gresalfi, M., & Arici, A. (2009).Why Educators Should Care About GamesEducational Leadership 67(1), pp. 76-80.
Barab, S., Thomas, M., Dodge, T., Carteaux, R., & Tuzun, H. (2005). Making Learning Fun: Quest Atlantis, A Game Without Guns (pdf) Educational Technology Research and Development, (53)1, 86-107
EcoMUVE is an ecosystems science curriculum for middle school students that is an outgrowth of the River City project developed by Chris Dede and his colleagues at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. 

Video of an early build of EcoMUVE
River City Research
Metcalf, S. J., Clarke, J. and Dede, C. (2009) Virtual Worlds for Education: River City and EcoMUVE,(pdf) Media In Transition International Conference, MIT, April 24-26, 2009, Cambridge, MA.

NASA MMO (Massively Multiplayer Online)
The Technology Transfer and Partnerships Office

Astronaut:  Moon, Mars and Beyond

"The power of games as educational tools is rapidly gaining recognition. NASA is in a position to develop an online game that functions as a persistent, synthetic environment supporting education as a laboratory, a massive visualization tools and collaborative workspace while simultaneously drawing users into a challenging, game-play immersion...Astronaut: Moon, Mars and Beyond will be a 'first-person-exploration' game that will also include traditional role-playing game (RPG) elements for both single-player and team-based space exploration, but with a realistic twist. Everything in the game will be crafted based on real NASA technology, as well as on prototypes from esteemed academic institutions for the next generation of robotics, spacecraft, spacesuits and space habitation...The game will allow players to utilize the latest technology from Big Stage, which enables photos to be transformed into virtual avatars. Players will be able to see themselves within the game world, if they so desire, or else use the game's editor to create their own characters." -John Gaudiosi, Big Downloads First Look at NASA's Unreal Engine 3 based MMO

Learning Technologies NASA STEM Learning MMO Games Plan (pdf)
Overview of the GSFC Integrated Design Center (IDC) Including the Mission Design Lab(MDL) and the Instrument Design Lab (IDL) (pdf)

EduSim has evolved since I last featured it on this blog.  According to the EduSim website, maintained by Rich White, EduSim is a 3D multi-user virtual world and authoring toolkit designed for use on classroom interactive whiteboards, but also used on laptops and desktop computers.  The application is a version of the core Open Cobalt Metaverse Project

"Edusim has been tested and works on the Smartboard, Activeboard, Interwriter, Polyvision, Mimio, eBeam, and even the Wiimote Whiteboard. Edusim is extendable allowing multiple classrooms to connect their interactive whiteboards for collaborative learning session. Edusim as a concept seeks to model a new we to engage student through "immersive touch" by leveraging 3D virtual environments on the interactive surface or classroom interactive whiteboard."

Constance Steinkuehler is an educational researcher who focuses on massively multiplayer online games and virtual worlds from the perspective of learning sciences and new literacy studies.  She's an Assistant Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and is affiliated with the UW-Madison Games, Learning & Society (GLS) group.

According to a post on the Massively website, "Steinkuehler has announced that she's got the Nation Academy of Education / Spencer Post-Doctorial Fellowship to do a cognitive ethnography on RuneScape. The study aims to show the educational merit of games designed for and played by youths instead of adults, which is what is typically studied, and to examine the impact of gameplay on their everyday lives, social relationships and school work...Cognitive ethnography is used to study the processes that effect the work carried out within a setting, whilst noting the effect of the material world and social context of the actions and social practices carried out. To put it in a simpler way, it studies how the social norms and social structures are created for a group of people who share a common culture, in this case RuneScapeplayers. You can read her proposal abstract over at her blog." -Jon Shute

World of Warcraft in School 
To get an idea of how World of Warcraft can be used, take a look at this video that was produced by members of the Virtual Worlds department at AFTRS, Australia's national screen arts and broadcast school.
Skateboarding for Real in World of Warcraft

World of WarcraftIntergenerational WoW Study, Focus on At-Risk Youth
Jason Allaire, a gamer and psychology professor at NC State, has a proposal to involve 100 high school students considered to be "at-risk" in an after-school program, with mentors, aged 60 years old or older. Jason is involved in the Gains Through Gaming Lab, a collaboration between NCSU and Georgia Tech.  

I haven't posted about Second Life in a long while.  There is quite a bit of catching up to do. Here is a short introduction to Second Life, using a garden as a metaphor:

Teen Second Life - Info from the Teen Second Life Wiki:

"The Teen Second Life was created to provide a safe place for education projects for those 13-17 years old. Unlike main Second Life, in the Teen Second Life, Linden Lab significantly restricts entry, purchase of land, and activities to those that support the education projects in Teen Second Life...Linden Lab only allows adults (anyone 18 and older) in the Teen Second Life who have had a background check completed, and who are either educators responsible for an education project in the Teen Second Life, developers assisting in the development of projects in the Teen Second Life, or the person responsible for managing activities on business islands in the Teen Second Life...Adults and businesses in Teen Second Life do not have any access to the Teen Second Life Mainland (Teen Second Life); that area is reserved exclusively for Teens."

Teen Second Life and the Field Museum
According to information from Vimeo, Teens in Chicago and New York went digging for fossils in Zambia this summer, without leaving home, thanks to a technology enhanced science camp run by Chicago’s Field Museum in partnership with Global Kids. Watch the video produced by Ben Wolff.

I Dig from Spotlight on Vimeo.
Global Kids

Global Kids' Digital Media Initiative

University Applications of Second Life
Claudia Kimbrough used Second Life in two College of Management courses at North Carolina State University, part of the Learning in a Technology-Rich Environment (LITRE) research program.  These courses were taught in 2007.

Virtually Online Learning and Teaching (VOLT)

Second Life in Nursing Education
The video below demonstrates a patient simulation in the virtual world of Second Life by MUVErs,  used in nursing courses,  with funding from University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh, Accelerated BSN program.
Medical Simulation in the Virtual World of Second Life

Multi-touch Second Life - 100" screen with modules for sensing, integrated with opensim client.

100" Multi touch screen with Second Life from junhee, yeo on Vimeo
The following video shows how the above system works with Zentitum Wonder Island:

100" MultiTouch System with Zenitum Wonder Island from junhee, yeo on Vimeo.
IMG512 is the Interactive Media Group of Zenitum Entertainment Computing, in Seoul, Korea. The team  focuses on interaction and user interface design, including multi-touch, gesture, and other means of physical computing.  

Milton Broome is Simon Bignell's Second Life avatar. In real life, Simon Bignell is a psychologist who lectures at the University of Derby in the UK.  His current research is a project that is looking at the effectiveness of using the Second Life platform to support people who have been diagnosed with high-functioning Autism and Asperger's Syndrome, focusing on social/communication skills. 
Bignell, S.J. (2009). Psychology on Second Life? Learning, Support and Research in 3D Online Multi-user Virtual Environments. Keynote Lecture at McCord Museum. International Conference on the Use of the Internet in Mental Health, McGill University, Canada.
Bignell, S.J. (2009). Teaching and Learning in Online Virtual Worlds. Invited Talk. International Conference on the Use of the Internet in Mental Health, McGill UniversityCanada. May 2009. Videocast:

David Coyle, PI and PlayWrite
David Coyle is a research fellow with the Computer Science Department at Trinity College who designs technology to support mental health interventions.

Personal Investigator(PI)
Personal Investigator is a 3D game designed for teens that implements Solution Focused Therapy.
PlayWrite "is a system which allows mental health care professionals to create and adapt therapeutic 3D computer games, which can then be used in adolescent mental health interventions."
Coyle, D., Doherty, G., & Sharry, J. (2009). An Evaluation of a Solution Focused Computer Game in Adolescent Interventions.Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry14(3) pp345-360
Coyle, D., & Doherty, G. (2009). Clinical evaluations and collaborative design: developing new technologies for mental healthcare interventions. ACM CHI'09 Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. pp.2051-2060.
Coyle, D., Doherty, G. (2008) Designing Adaptable Technologies for Talk-Based Mental Health Interventions (pdf). ACM CHI'09 Technology in Mental Health worksop
Coyle, D., Doherty, G., Sharry, J., & Matthews, M. (2007). Computers in Talk-Based Mental Health Care. Interacting with Computers, 19(4), pp.545-562. (abstract)
Coyle, D., Doherty, G., & Sharry, J. (2005). Adaptable Computer Gaming for Adolescent Psychotherapy - Extended Abstract.CyberPsychology and Behavior, 8(4), pp.311-312.
Coyle, D., Matthews, M., Sharry, J., Nisbet, A., & Doherty, G. (2005). Personal Investigator: A Therapeutic 3D Game for Adolescent Psychotherapy. International Journal of Interactive Technology and Smart Education, 2, 73-88. Preprint (PDF).

CITEd Resources
Learning with Computer Games and Simulations
Multi-User Virtual Environments for Education
Multimedia Instruction of Social Skills

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