Positioning Interactive Education in the Metaverse


I applauded The Guardian's technology columnist Victor Keegan last month ago for intelligently outlining how the explosive growth of virtual worlds across all major demographics means we may see some permanence to the phenomenon of virtual worlds.

Now Pixels and Policy takes a look at how education will soon have to teach understanding of virtual worlds alongside grammar and biology.

The Importance of Virtual Education

Given that virtual worlds are expected to hit nearly $4.5 billion in revenue next year – more than the GDP of Guinea – it may behoove children to learn virtual worlds skills now for future e-commerce dominance.

From  a report by The Guardian:

In, say, World of Warcraft you have to do calculations for crucial
strikes and damage limitation while academic dissertations are already
being written on how skills acquired in multiplayer online games are
exactly those needed in industry as the digital revolution proceeds.

Clearly, [online games] that could engage kids in maths during their early
teens could eventually have an effect on the whole economy. Maths is
the bedrock of the digital age.

How true it is. In high school I wanted to learn computer coding, but I never grasped Algebra sufficiently to make heads or tails of it. Even managing HTML for this blog required a bit of learning on my part. I've met kids no older than 14, though, who are in advanced trigonometry and algebra courses.

These are going to be the kids who can adapt to the online world. These kids are the future ridiculously wealthy content creators. As we reported last week, future-minded schools that currently fail to register on the academic radars of teens are adopting innovative Second Life curricula, and even devoting entire course programs to Second Life and virtual worlds.

As virtual technology becomes more accessible across the socio-economic spectrum, I have no doubt the physical walls of schools will fall to virtual learning centers like those proposed for Kenyan students too poor to travel to school. This will not only increase the emphasis on a virtual world-savvy education, but will serve to democratize education across the currently unbridgeable poor-rich divide.

The inner-city school could well fade away, a bad nightmare from the pre-virtual era.

As we've said and as Mr. Keegan boldly states, the model of education is changing with the times:

It is possible we are not far away from a revolution in which formal
education will give way more and more to the attractions of internet learning including virtual worlds. Something is clearly happening.

We can hope the evolution to a math-savvy culture, where learning and play are seamless and where even the poorest can access a top-tier school through the virutal world, is a change not far in the future.

Obama Administration Turns to Virtual Worlds to Expand STEM Education Initiative

3492645939_d9b4cd136b The Obama Administration made promoting engineering and science education a major part of their social agenda.

Now the White House is turning to the virtual world to extoll the virtues of a science education to skeptical students.

Pixels and Policy looks at how the White House is calling in the big guns to get their pro-technology education message out to the masses.

Continue reading Obama Administration Turns to Virtual Worlds to Expand STEM Education Initiative

University of Texas: Unattractive Avatars Promote Negative Self Images

University of Texas Austin campus at sunset-dusk - aerial view
University of Texas Austin campus at sunset-dusk – aerial view

As virtual world programs continue to expand into universities around the country, we’re getting the first taste of serious virtual world research.

A new University of Texas study reports that the appearance of an avatar might have a negative effect on the self-image of the player.

Pixels and Policy looks at recent work from the University of Texas, one of the largest virtual world education projects in the country, that may spread doubt about the utility of widespread use of virtual worlds in education.

Continue reading University of Texas: Unattractive Avatars Promote Negative Self Images

New York Educators Discuss Using Virtual Worlds as a Teaching Tool

106415-004-1B158AEAYesterday, we took public schools to task for not integrating virtual worlds into their curriculum with the same fervor as forward-thinking universities.

Now a gathering of New York educators came together to discuss just that, and the results are reassuring on a number of levels.

Pixels and Policy looks at why virtual worlds may soon find a home in New York's public schools, and what these new tools might mean to the future of learning.

Continue reading New York Educators Discuss Using Virtual Worlds as a Teaching Tool

Universities are Adopting Virtual World Learning. Why Aren’t Primary Schools?


Educators could build virtual learning hubs like this.

Dana Oshiro of ReadWriteWeb asks a question that's been on our minds for a while now. Universities are making use of virtual worlds as educational tools, so why are public primary schools missingt he boat?

Oshiro points out the divide between the early adoption of virtual worlds in universities and the pushback in public primary schools:

Apart from this recent endorsement by the University of Texas, mainstream educators still don't have the green light to teach in virtual worlds.

Many argue that video teleconferencing and instant messaging have replaced the need for virtual world interaction. However, neither of these offer the same immersive experience.

Pixels and Policy takes a peek at just why the divide between virtual education is so clearly drawn, and why grade schools are missing out on a fantastic opportunity to prepare students for the future of education.

Continue reading Universities are Adopting Virtual World Learning. Why Aren’t Primary Schools?

Kenya’s New Broadband Connection Could Revolutionize East Africa


                An internet cafe in Moyale, Kenya

More young Africans than ever before could find work as call
center clerks in virtual world offices as Seacom finally
brings a reliable broadband connection to Africa

The arrival of Africa’s
first heavy-duty internet connection may help solve the burgeoning unemployment
gap in Kenya and East Africa as a whole.

Pixels and Policy takes a look at how the arrival of low-cost, reliable Internet in Kenya will do more for the country than allow a whole new crop of World of Warcraft accounts.

Continue reading Kenya’s New Broadband Connection Could Revolutionize East Africa

Bringing Virtual Classrooms to Latin America’s Rural Villages


ClaseMovil's narrowband education experience

Virtual worlds are considered a pleasure of the developed world. After all, they require broadband internet connections, powerful computers, and the luxury of free time.

One education company is working to change that by bringing stripped-down mobile classrooms to the rural backroads of Latin America. Their goal? Educate the masses and improve quality of life.

ClaseMovil hopes to be the first private company to bring virtual worlds to groups previously written off as too impoverished. According to an article in DigitalBeat, they just might have what it takes.

Continue reading Bringing Virtual Classrooms to Latin America’s Rural Villages

Number of Colleges Offering Degrees in Online Worlds Skyrockets


          Students can build their own classrooms

Pixels and Policy has one more sign that virtual worlds and the development of online environments are more than just passing fads.

An article published in today's Kansas City Star points out that over 250 colleges have added degree programs in online gaming and virtual worlds, with specialties ranging from content creation to graphic design and persistent world programming.

The Star also reports that colleges investing heavily in virtual world technology are already reaping the enrollment dividends. Read on to find out why it's a good time to be a nerd.

Continue reading Number of Colleges Offering Degrees in Online Worlds Skyrockets

Second Life Proves Fertile Ground for Nursing Education

SL acute care2

Virtual medical training yields real results.

A few weeks ago we outlined how South Dakota State University was adopting Second Life as a virtual medical training simulator.

Now The Metaverse Journal reports that Second Life is finding a new life as an educational tool for midwifing and child delivery.

From the article:

The birthing unit is so much better than most in existence in the real
world. As a Registered Nurse (but not a midwife), I’ve witnessed half a
dozen births and even from that limited perspective I can totally
appreciate how much better a birthing environment Te Wāhi Whānau
is compared to even the better hospital-based birthing units.

As a
clinical simulation for midwives, I can see its power as a key adjunct
to lab-based learning and practicums.

Read on to find out why Second Life is getting into the business of birthing babies, and why this is good for the quality of medical care nationwide.

Continue reading Second Life Proves Fertile Ground for Nursing Education

New Virtual World Educates Kids Without Ads


It seems any virtual world dedicated to the interests of kids is awash in advertising from companies desperate to snare new customers in the impressionable youth population. Not so with a new educational world, reports the Washington Post:

Wonder Rotunda, the creation of former international trade lawyer Eric
Garfinkel, opened for business online in August.

Parents pay $45 for a
year-long membership, or "park pass" at the site, a two-dimensional
virtual world based in part on some of the Great Falls resident's
earliest memories as a kid growing up in Queens.

Thanks to that subscription fee, the site doesn't have the
advertising that blankets most kid-oriented sites, and there's a
pleasant, old-school look to the thing.

Wonder Rotunda aims to educate kids on a wide range of topics, from healthy eating to American culture. The Rotunda will find some competition in its healthy eating aims – Independence Blue Cross of Philadelphia recently opened a world catering to the same subject. But there's enough traffic to go around – according to the Post article, over 9 million kids visit these worlds every year.

As more families turn to virtual worlds as creative and educational outlets for their kids, the prevalence of advertising is becoming a concern. This is where Wonder Rotunda really makes a break for innovative territory. As a review from CommonSenseMedia.org confirms, the site is completely ad-free, creating an immersive educational experience without hawking products to pint-size future consumers.

This makes a strong case for the educational integrity of the Wonder Rotunda project, and at $45, it costs less for an entire year of membership than a month of some supplementary education programs. That credibility will boost Wonder Rotunda in a field crowded with educational worlds but lacking in quality content.

We will be following Wonder Rotunda as it breaks across the Metaverse with the promise of providing an interactive and engaging educational source for young, internet-savvy avatars-to-be.