Education in Virtual Worlds, Virtual World Platforms

Seventh Graders Drool Over Math, Science

An initiative between Clemson University and Appalachian State University, supported by a $1.5-million grant from the National Science Foundation, will be implemented this summer to get seventh-graders excited about math and science.

Clemson’s Newsroom reports that three school professors are collaborating on developing a curriculum within a 3D virtual world. The goal is to let the students create virtual worlds and learn how to interact with others in a virtual world setting.

“The goal is to help rising seventh-grade students acquire the computer and cognitive skills they will need in order to imagine careers in science or math,” said Sean Williams, associate dean of the graduate school, associate professor of English and co-principal investigator. “Seventh-graders… are pretty open-minded, not yet jaded. We’re using 3-D virtual worlds to entice them, open their eyes to the possibilities, while they are still young.”

While no specifics were given in the article, the goal is to take advantage of the imagination-loosening power of virtual worlds to spring kids into action.

“Being able to do anything you can imagine in a fake world helps you do things more imaginatively in the real world,” said Williams. “Imagination is, after all, a cognitive skill… You have to learn to be social to succeed in a virtual world, and you have to think critically in order to conceive of objects and relationships that don’t exist yet.”

An intriguing part of the curriculum is that, toward the end of the course, the tables will be turned and students will educate teachers about using the virtual worlds. But the biggest challenge could be retaining the interest of summer school students.

The two schools, along with some other public schools in the region, are part of the Carolina Virtual Worlds Consortium, a new organization aimed at securing funding for educational and training initiatives in virtual worlds.

The article doesn’t specify which virtual world platform will be used, but based on the photo I believe it may be Sun’s Wonderland.

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