This week's readings look at how multi-use virtual environments (MUVE) can be used to enhance learning. According to Dieterle & Clark, "MUVEs are a technology-based innovation that (a) changes both what and how students learn and teachers teach and (b) lends itself to capturing student learning" (p. 11). They suggest that MUVE's can help educators link learning that takes place in outside environments with the learning that takes place in the traditional classroom to create authentic learning experiences where students can experiment and explore, engage in the exchange of information, work collaboratively to solve problems, and immerse themselves in different contexts (Dieterle & Clark).

While not presented in a traditional classroom but rather during a summer camp, Bers (2008) article about Zora is an excellent example of how a virtual world can provide "a safe social laboratory for youth to experiment" as they engage in thinking about complex topics such as civics (p. 140). As I looked for additional materials to supplement my readings this week, I came across this recent paper from the MacArthur foundation, Learning Outside of School, which is so relevant to our discussions in this course about culture, identity development, and informal learning that currently takes place outside of the daily class routine and how this 'non-school' learning is impacting our children (as was demonstrated by Bers article). While I am still reading the paper, it provides interesting insight into how educators can address the needs of our current 21st century learners.

This week's readings also reminded me of a book I read a few semesters ago, Reality is Broken by Jane McGonical. In it, she discusses the power of gaming and its potential in helping solve real world problems as well as improve day-to-day living. While her book discusses many types of games, including MUVE's, her overall message is that the inherent qualities of games when applied in real-world contexts have the potential to engage and motivate.




Her message, while not intentionally created for educators, has sparked some action. Here is a video about a school in New York, Quest to Learn, whose philosophy is based on the gaming principles and learner engagement McGonical discusses. Would you want to work in a school like this?



Bers, M. U. (2008). Civic identities, online technologies: From designing civics curriculum to supporting civic experiences. In W. L. Barnett (Ed.), Civic Life Online: Learning How Digital Media Can Engage Youth (pp. 139-160). doi: 10.1162/dmal.9780262524827.139

Dieterle, E. and Clarke, J. (n.d.). Multi-user Virtual Environments for Teaching and Learning. Retrieved from
http://muve.gse.harvard.edu/rivercityproject/documents/MUVE-for-TandL-Dieterle-Clarke.pdf