Happy 2010 everyone,
I wanted to share the findings of my recently completed study, a dissertation in education titled “Learning in the Wild of a Virtual World.”
PDFs of the entire project are here http://tinyurl.com/yjojsu3, the abstract is below.
Please forgive cross-posting.

Suzanne Aurilio
PS. I just realized I pdf-ed unsigned title pages, they have indeed been signed ;).

Learning in the Wild of a Virtual World

This study took place in the online 3D virtual world Second Life®, a recreational environment designed for world-building and socializing, and intended for individuals 18 years old and older. It described learning from the perspective of Second Life® Residents and focused on their world-building activities. As a virtual ethnographer, my avatar interacted with seven main participant-avatars in-world. Real life ages ranged from 33 years old to mid 50s; all but one were women. I collected data from 20 other Residents also. The study contributes to a nascent body of educational research exploring new forms of inquiry and practice conceived in virtual worlds, and breaks new ground by positioning itself in terms of a constructionist-learning context in which adults actively engage.

The findings reiterate previous research of learning in virtual worlds. It is situated, social, intrinsically engaging and requires a high degree of personal agency. Learning in Second Life®, however, typifies constructionist principles, and qualities of adult learning which, in practice, are relevant to children as learners too. The context-specific activities of world-building invoke in learners a capacity to be self-directed problem-solvers of concrete and personally meaningful tasks. These activities result in novel expressive forms, and performative expressions of self through one’s avatar. World-building engenders artists’ and artisans’ habits of mind in the forms of learning-by-doing and trial and error.

Compared with the larger population, Second Life® Residents are trailblazers. I therefore proposed cyborg learners/learning as a formulation for characterizing the expressive forms and ways of learning documented here.

Learners embody avatars in a 3D graphical space.
They are geographically dispersed.
They occupy at least two or more social and technological locations simultaneously.
Learning is technologically and socially platform-specific.
It is socially interdependent.
It depends on intrinsically motivating activities.
It engenders forms of learning-by-doing.

These findings contribute to a broad research paradigm addressing games for learning, mobile learning, open learning, personal learning environments (PLEs) and multi-user learning environments (MUVEs).

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Sounds great! I wonder what the implications are for K-12 students? I've seen similar kids' worlds inside games but don't know if there are other sites where K-12 might get involved. It brings up lots of ideas.


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