Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Avatars and Self

An interesting read about the avatar-self relationship. I find it fascinating to see how people are digging deeper into virtual worlds and the opportunities they offer us. Ms. Schultze, the professor being interviewed, explains her interest in avatars and the implications of the avatar-self relationship. Her full paper can be found here.

I have been a resident of Second Life, the platform she discusses, for just over a year. The first time I entered the world it gave me shivers...I could instantly see the potential for learning....imagine being able to learn by matter what the concept or venue...I visited a world where the focus was Shakespeare's Macbeth...I could open books, listen to voices eerily reciting the play....I lived it for a short time...

I started imagining what it would have been like if when I had read Macbeth in high school, I could have come to this place with my peers and teacher...we could have designed avatars and re-enacted the play. Maybe the learners in the class that just sat through each lecture, totally disengaged, may have come to life when they saw the grisly bits of the story...or got to take on the roles of Macbeth themselves...

I also had an image of "The Magic School Bus" series come to mind when looking at the potential of using virtual worlds and simulations within an educational context. In those books/videos, Ms. Frizzle, the coolest teacher ever (in my opinion), takes her learners on amazing trips with a magic bus to learn first hand e.g. a trip to an underwater volcano, a journey inside a classmate's body to find out why he's sick, traveling to outer space and becoming part of the food chain. Experiences the learners in her classes will NEVER forget because "they've been there and done that".

Well...that is what I want to do for the learners I teach. I want them to fly their own ship to outer space and complete a mission that saves the Earth. I want them to experience rescuing others needing help. I want them to explore themselves and their abilities in as many environments as possible as a variety of different characters. I want them to be inspired into new directions. For instance, maybe by joining a mission to reclaim treasure from a sunken ship a child may be inspired to try diving, archeology or anthropology.

In no way am I saying regular classrooms cannot provide inspiration. However, I do believe that being able to live and "do" the experience, even in a virtual context may be the way to help leave a lasting impression with some learners.  Living these experiences through their avatars may also help to teach character and morality that could also impact real life interactions...we shall see...
- Alissa

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