Joel Foreman, Associate Professor of English at George Mason University, postulates that massively multi-player online games (MMOGs) can equal learning opportunities if leverage properly.

After a brief history of the evolution of video games from Missle Command (2d – more abstract than realistic) to Vzones (still 2d but more realistic) to There (a near 3d PG-13 MMOG), he dove into MMOGs as learning environments.

So how does this equate to learning?

MMOG’s lead to the development of real-world economies. Citing Edward Castronova’s Synthetic Worlds, Foreman notes that many people are turning games into profit with anshechung making $80k/year as an online real estate developer for the MMOG Second Life. IGE is a clearing house for many MMOGs giving a real-world portal to the virtual landscape. Some of the other issues that have arisen as a result of MMOGs are real property conflicts, the development of governance systems (not just democratic), and the refinement of interpersonal communication skills (such as the development of alliances and peacemaking).

Mr. Foreman believes that if we can create fantasy and real-world simultaions, how much more would it take for us to develop environments that support learning? Studying Shakespeare, send your students into a virtual Elizabethan England. Exploring marine biology? Immerse yourself in an exploration of the Great Barrier Reef. Following a parallel theme, there was a blog entry by Barbara Ganley that reflected on how social software can engender a sense of place without one ever having had to leave their physical environment. One of her students posted the following blog entry:

But a question emerges from jet exhaustion…must we physically plant
our feet in its soil to have traveled to another place? Just two days
ago I was back, ironically also for the third time, at Middlebury
College for a pre-orientation program called Project for Integrated
Expression (P.I.E.). Fifteen freshman from all edges of space were in
attendance. Jamaica, Gaza, Idaho, Arkansas, Alaska, California, the
list grows. And as I listened to their stories, felt around their
selves, their souls, imagined their communities, their sense of home,
while tentatively sharing my own, I had the overwhelming feeling that I
had traveled to a new place. In knowledge, in understanding, in
perspective,in space, in my very own being. But my feet stayed planted,
the scenery around me unchanged.

It’s funny, in this age of globalization, of time and space
compression, of mass communication and rapid progress, how far must we
travel to be in a new place?

Bryan Alexander mentioned the Open Croquet project (formerly Tea) as an open-source MMOG development tool.

One last note: I at home among geeks!!! Of the four books mentioned, Ender’s Game, The Matrix, Snowcrash and Neuromancer, I’ve read three! Not that this is important by itself but these are identified as a few of the springboards from which our current MMOG/social technology has sprung.


One thought on “NERCOMP – Part II

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