Design of virtual worlds

I’ve just listened to an intersting interview with Jim Bower of Whyville, a virtual world for kids to chat, play and learn.

Jim argues for more understanding in how to design engaging learning activities. He tells us that engaging experiences in virtual worlds need to build around the combination of three major components:

  • social objects
  • economics
  • creation

A nice example of such a learning experience seems to be the new music maker in Whyville. Kids get the opportunity to create there own music tracks. They are able to listen to their music with friends and they can sell their music for so-called “clams” on the Whyville market.  From the sell records (out-sell of iTunes?) we can tell that there is maximum engagements though its hard to tell or measure what have been learned, I think.

Jim Bower argues that “traditional education is going to have to come to terms with the fact that its methods may no longer be the most effective way for learning to happen.” He’s trying to get schools to use Whyville as a didactic tool but sees a lot of resistance, “its too different from traditional school”. Jim thinks that vitual worlds best fit in the “workforce curriculum” as this is a rather new curriculum and schools are more open for new approaches. An interesting point from a organizational change perspective.

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