Two more developments in the virtual world since the announcement of Metaplace last week (here’s my take on the education potential).
- Google seems to be testing a virtual world engine at Arizona State University.
- Scenecaster is promoting itself as a way to “mainstream” virtual worlds, much like YouTube did to video
There is a nice write up of these two developments in Virtual World News.
Really, the hype around these worlds and engines has nothing to do with use, and especially not educational use. The hype is to create “buzz” for these companies that creates value by generating attention. Someone is going to “win” the attention war and make a bunch of money. The more hype and publicity a company generates, the more attention it can get from venture capitalists or bigger companies hoping to score a competitive advantage by buying a hot technology. Part of the reason that all these annoucements are coming now is that there are a couple of big conferences devoted to promoting new companies going on this month.
Of course, what does this mean to educators – today!
Today, the choices for educators exploring virtual worlds mean that you have to commit to one of number of proprietary worlds with some pretty serious limitations, some technical, some social. Second Life has certainly gotten a lot of publicity, but it’s not the only game in town. As with many Web 2.0 tools (and really, any technology) it’s going to shake out and leave a lot of companies on the sidelines. It’s not a question of if, but when. Educators using any tool should seriously think about what would happen if the company shut its doors suddenly, or if something much better comes along. That way, the lessons learned can be transferred to the next tool, technology, or platform.
It seems to me that anyone exploring the use of any technology tool with students should always be thinking about the “big picture” — what does this mean for students, how does this enhance learning, and what the lessons learned are for the future. Getting married to any technology tool doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s the best choice for your class, but keeping the big picture in mind means that your time invested will always pay off.