Posts Tagged ‘Virtual worlds for kids’

h1

Virtual Worlds – SERIOUSLY

October 7, 2010

As previously mentioned here, last week I did a presentation at the Virtual Worlds project’s workshop “Augmenting Reality in the Public Domain”.

It was an interesting day with good discussions on amon other the constructions of the “serious” in serious games and serious virtual worlds. I deliberately turned my title around to “Virtual Worlds – SERIOUSLY” because I wanted to indicate that there exist many ways to engage with virtual worlds seriously. I also wanted to insert that the boundaries between what makes a virtual world and a serious game are not very clear. They might in fact become partially contained in each other.

In my talk, the focus was on assemblages of relationships between education and virtual worlds. As previously mentioned here, CarrieLynn Reinhard and I went to Singapore in June where we met up with representatives from the InfoComm Development Association and people from two schools working with various initiatives to engage with and construct virtual worlds for both educational and gaming purposes.

CarrieLynn’s presentation at the workshop introduced how the government in Singapore is thinking strategically in terms of virtual worlds for tourism, and my presentation was more focused on what seems to mark the Singaporean mergers between education and virtual worlds (with the limited knowledge we have). I supplemented this with a focus on my research following how a particular virtual universe Mingoville.com moves and becomes moved in and out of schools, homes and other contexts dealing with education ‘in the world’ (i.e. in Vietnam, Singapore, Finland, Portugal, Norway, Denmark, Chile, Nigeria, China).

(Too) Briefly put, I suggested (and this is very much to be considered work in progress) that we are dealing with many different constructions of what it means to work seriously with virtual worlds (e.g.):

  • Built/designed/structured around/for serious purposes with learning goals/purposes
  • Used for serious purposes for learning goals / purposes
  • The imaginary that learning transfer happens from the serious game/gaming/virtual world engagements to other situations.

Furthermore, I explicited three variations as examples of approaches to serious engagements in virtual worlds:

  • Virtual worlds used for / engaged in  local/regional/periodic educational situations (e.g. secondlife.com and the Singaporean virtual world constructed for education and youth olympic games engagements. See CarrieLynn’s and my slides for examples and elaborations).
  • Virtual world / learning environment developed locally (e.g. for a school) with more long-term serious aims (e.g. several examples can be found in Singapore’s Future Schools projects that merge serious games, virtual world elements and LMS/VLE elements).
  • Serious games /virtual worlds developed for serious purposes with a broader scope/market (e.g. the world as market) and more broad educational aim – ‘educational oxygens’ (e.g. Mingoville.com and the Serious Games Interactive series). Those may include both shorter periodic activities and more long-term engagements.

These examples represent quite different ways to construct hybridities between serious games and virtual worlds, and how these can in various ways adress and become actors that augment different aspects of educational activities and thereby assist in solving/supporting various educational challenges in the world.

 I would love to get comments on my attempts to describe these matters.

Advertisements
h1

Serious games and educational cultures

August 16, 2010

I guess it’s about time that I reveal in more details what my current research is all about… 🙂

My postdoc is part of a research project called Serious Games on a Global Market Place involving researchers from several Danish universities (i.e. The Danish School of Education, Aarhus University, The IT-university, University of Southern Denmark, and The Technical University of Denmark) and among other Danish serious games developers (e.g. Mingoville A/S and Serious Games Interactive). The KINO Programme Committee under The Danish Counsel for Strategic Research has supported the research financially.

My subproject is titled: Educational Cultures and Serious Games on a Global Market Place. The project focuses on following engagements with English education and the netbased virtual universe/serious game called Mingoville.

Mingoville.com is by its developers described as a “second language online-based course featuring fun English learning games, grammar, songs and more” for children. (YouTube videos about Mingoville)

Mingoville exist in 33 languages and registration in countries around the world is free except for Denmark. In 2005 Mingoville was developed by delc (Dansk e-learning center) as part of a Danish competition in developing new types of digital teaching materials for primary school in Denmark. The competition was led by the Danish Ministry of Education, and Mingoville was then developed for and targeted 3rd to 4th grade pupils and beginning English teaching and learning in Denmark.

Mingoville Classic (today “Learn Now”) was launched in 2006 and in June 2009 a Mingoville virtual world (today “Play Now”) for kids was launched in addition. Mingoville has (according to the developers) more than one million users across the world.

 

One example of the wide distribution and possible influence of Mingoville on English Education is an initiative (spring 2009) lead by the Portuguese Ministry of Education which distributed small laptop computers for all children in primary schools in Portugal. Mingoville is provided as a link among the programmes on all the laptop computers.

Another example is Chile. July 2009 Chile’s government launched an initiative associated with their ambition to digitalize the nation. In Chile approx. 2 % of the population speaks English. This is by Chile’s government considered a problem because English is considered a central foreign language on a global market place. In Chile a central problem is that they cannot generate enough qualified English teachers. One subproject of the government’s recent initiatives is therefore focusing on language and supports English teaching. The initiative is a partnership between educational institutions, companies and the government. The English project consists among other in educating English teachers in Chile in teaching English with Mingoville.

Also in Denmark more than 500 schools have been registered (by the Mingoville developers) as users. 

It may in a sense be viewed as something new that teaching materials developed in one country may become distributed and engaged as actors in variations of contexts of engagements all over the world. The big question of course is in which ways does Mingoville partially engage and become partially engaged as an actor (if it does) in English education? 

A huge challenge in the project is to engage with the manifold construction sites for Mingoville. Project Educational Cultures and Serious Games on a Global Market Place attempts to open up a relational study of different partially coexisting (dis-)engagements with Mingoville, and the associated entanglements, realizations and movements of Mingoville and English education. The study follows circulations of Mingoville as a partially existing (in a sense ephemeral) phenomenon multiple, which cannot be easily described in any one comprehensive way. To follow the circulations of Mingoville should here be understood as following Mingoville as an emerging and shifting form that becomes partially contained by and partially contains English education (if it does) in heterogeneous ways as it is moved around.  

The subproject must be viewed in relationship with the overall Serious Games Project and its aims.

My work is inspired among other particularly by STS/ANT researchers Bruno Latour, Marilyn Strathern, John Law, and Annemarie Mol.

In relation to other subprojects in the Serious Games on a Global Market Place other qualitative and semi-ethnographic studies have been conducted in Danish primary schools in 2007-2008. Furthermore a pilot study was conducted during a week in Portugal in April 2009 at a primary school.  These have focused on research initiated attempts to engage Mingoville in English teaching, and the effects of these.

My empirical gatherings consist of ‘online and offline’ studies of Mingoville as it is developed by Mingoville A/S in an office in Copenhagen, together with empirical gatherings in schools, homes, municipalities and governments ‘in the world’. 

Quite concretely I try to follow the movements and emerging circulations and establishments of Mingoville inside and across these manifold contexts of knowledges and engagements. Except for the fieldwork in Portugal (conducted with an experimental outset in a ‘would-you-like-to-try-Mingoville-in-your-classroom-approach’), my fieldwork takes point of departure in researching everyday (dis)engagements with Mingoville and include:

  • Mingoville in Mingoville A/S

 

  • Following everyday school activities and particularly English lessons with(out) Mingoville in a 7-9 grade special education class in Denmark

 

  • Following home education/teaching/training with Mingoville in two homes in Denmark and one home in Norway

 

  • Following (together with my colleague Bente Meyer) English with(out) Mingoville in grade 5 and 6 in a Finnish school 

 

  • Following (together with my colleague Bente Meyer) Mingoville into private homes of pupils in grade 5 and 6 in the Finnish School

 

  •  Telephone conversations with a number of schools in Denmark that have in one way or another (dis-)engaged with Mingoville

 

  • Following Mingoville (and other virtual worlds /virtual universes/serious games for kids) online