Computer generated virtual worlds are growing in popularity as recreational spaces. They present tremendous potential as new environments for education. Our development of LabradorLife aims to explore and exploit some of the educational potential that virtual worlds offer. Although the idea of Education 2.0 has been around for several years now, the use of virtual worlds as educational spaces is still emerging. Coined from the term ‘Web 2.0,’ which has come to mean the deeply interactive, intersubjective and distributed nature of the web, Education 2.0 refers to the increasingly socially mediated and interactive nature of learning in light of current information technologies. Education 2.0 is basically about using information technologies to enhance sharing and collaboration in education. It is also, and possibly more challengingly, about the equalization of education where students become teachers and vice versa in an open educational arena.
In an online discussion called ‘The Future of Work,’ Socialcast blogger, Mark Horton (http://blog.socialcast.com/education-2-0-social-networking-and-education/) describes the shift in education afforded by the internet as opening “the door to instant exploration of subjects and questions that haven’t been available in the classroom before:
Students are now able to explore the ancient Egyptian pyramids using Google Maps, see updated facts and information on a wiki, or read a famous explorer’s blog posts on their expeditions, all safely from their desks. Classrooms, schools and even districts are able to share and collaborate in private social networks, expanding collective knowledge and relationships to new horizons. The Internet has allowed education to expand past local resources, and draw from a vast library of knowledge that organizations and businesses are actively contributing to everyday.
Most schools are at what John Moravec calls the ‘brick and click’ stage. In his article ‘Beyond Education 2.0’ (Education Futures, 2008) Moravec suggests that the future of education lies with even greater interactivity and distributive potential, when the classroom – the ‘brick’ in his formula – eventually disappears entirely.
With LabradorLife, we are creating an educational platform that will enable students to meet as classmates, community members, and members of a larger regional, national and international society. We aim to enhance the social connectivity of their learning through an online virtual world that situates them compellingly in their own communities as a starting point. LabradorLife is about engaging students in their own local and regional histories so that making broader connections begins to make sense of their place in the world.
A virtual world environment such as provided by LabradorLife enables students to meet in an educational forum, and aims to engage students in learning through sharing and contributing in a nested set of social networking arenas.
In LabradorLife, teachers become fellow explorers with their students. Moravec’s analysis shows clearly that Education 2.0 still requires accredited teachers who act as leaders in knowledge dissemination, which is of course regulated through the school board curriculum.
The Education Foundation of Britain suggests that many teachers are unsure of how to progress into the possibilities of interactive education, where students are much freer to explore and develop their own learning agendas. They provide useful pointers to help teachers weather the changes that are being heralded as an educational ‘tsunami,’ where “the students will be doing most of the driving anyway” (Scribed document 123260 ‘Education 2.0’ 2007).