Journal of Virtual Worlds and Education

After close to a year of planning and another year of reviewing, editing, proofreading, and more editing, the Journal of Virtual Worlds and Education is now published! Volume 1, Issue 1 is available as a free download at the JVWE website, or click the image below to download the pdf:

Journal of Virtual Worlds and Education

Journal of Virtual Worlds and Education

This groundbreaking journal is the first to be devoted exclusively to the use of virtual worlds as education platforms, and is rich with research in this emerging field. The inaugural issue contains more than 200 pages of research on the pedagogical uses of virtual realities, featuring works by educators and scholars from around the world.

As we begin work on the second issue, I am excited and intrigued by the growth of virtual worlds and look forward to research into the educational use of Second Life, Open Sim, Blue Mars, Open Wonderland, Cobalt, Active Worlds, and others. Please check the submission guidelines for more information.

What a Difference a Year Makes

Anyone reading this blog has probably wondered where I’ve been. It’s been almost an entire year since I posted. I intend to keep this blog active now that some other projects have developed enough that they are not consuming all of my time. Here’s a recap of what’s been going on since my last post.

I’ve been working quite a bit in the realm of virtual worlds and education. A conversation with others in the field brought up the point that there is a serious dearth of venues for publication of research in this area. A colleague, David Pascal, suggested we create our own peer reviewed journal. The wheels started turning, and I suggested we create an umbrella organization that would allow us to create other journals and publications in the field as they become necessary. A year ago today, the Center for Virtual Worlds Education and Research, Inc.  filed articles of incorporation. We began our effort to pull together experts in the field to start our first journal, The Journal of Virtual Worlds and Education.

I made a trip to Monterey Bay, California to attend the New Media Consortium’s Summer Conference. I learned an enormous amount about the changing face of education — not just in virtual worlds, but in all aspects of new media. Digital storytelling was a big topic at the conference. Virtual worlds and Facebook were topics. Challenge based learning was an eye-opener. I met some wonderful people who are working hard and working creatively to change the way education gets done.

Shortly after returning from this trip, we gathered up our editorial team and put out a call for papers. Our editorial team is currently comprised of faculty members from Rochester Institute of  Technology, University of Rochester, St. John Fisher College, and University of Nevada, Las Vegas. By the time we reached our November deadline, we had several excellent papers in hand. We sent them out for blind review and have just received them back. Now the editorial process begins, and we are planning for a May publication date.

This has taken up the bulk of my time in the past year. I have also been participating in Urgent Evoke. It’s an online social game created by Jane McGonigal for the World Bank to bring people together to solve very big problems.

I continue to work in Second Life, maintaining a small parcel which I have used for both CVWER and for my real life library system, where I held a Big Read discussion of Call of the Wild last month. I continue to be impressed by the librarians working in Second Life who maintain their real life jobs as well as their virtual world reference services and events. Recently, Marilyn Johnson, author of This Book is Overdue: How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save us All, was in Second Life for a visit with the CVL group. It’s nice when someone outside the group “gets” what is being done by the in-world librarians.

Lastly, I’ve been spending time on Twitter and Facebook more this year than in the past simply because it’s so easy to make a fast post. I’ve been working my day job at the library and still loving it after 15 years. I’ve been learning martial arts and hiking with my dog. All of these things have been taking priority over my blog, but I do hope to get a little blogging done from time to time — so check back every now and then. : )

Stepping into Science: Education in Virtual Worlds

Here is a press release sent by John S. Howard about an event that takes place next week:

“Stepping into Science” Next in Popular “Stepping into Virtual Worlds” Series

Using virtual worlds to teach and promote a love of science is the topic of the next installment of the popular “Stepping into Virtual Worlds” conference series, to be offered January 16th, 2009 in the virtual world of Second Life. Hundreds of people have attended this series, which began with “Stepping into History” in June and has included conferences focusing on literature and on healthcare. The series is sponsored by Alliance Library System and LearningTimes. The day-long conference is open to the public, with more information available at www.steppingintovirtualworlds.org. It will take place entirely in the virtual world of Second Life.

“Many believe that the next step for the Internet is going 3-D” notes John Howard, conference director. “These workshops are intended to give people a glimpse into the possibilities available when people can actually “step into” the web, rather than just reading about it.”

During this conference, participants will make virtual “field trips” to some of the best and most creative locations in Second Life that are using virtual worlds to promote science. During these field trips, they may be able to speak with those responsible for creating the simulations, and have time to explore them on their own. One field trip for this conference is Genome Island, a simulation where visitors can learn about genetics in various ways including actually entering a giant cell. Another will allow participants to experience a life-size tsunami as it crashes ashore, destroying all the buildings on the beach.

Some other features of this conference will include:

· A keynote presentation by Troy McConaghy. Troy’s educational background is in physics, applied mathematics, space exploration, and astrodynamics. He’s been involved with science-related projects in Second Life for over three years and was a founding member of the SciLands, Second Life’s science-themed continent.

· Breakout sessions presented by scientists using virtual worlds for collaborative work, and teachers using virtual worlds as a teaching tool.

· A panel discussion, allowing participants to question and interact with a variety of experts in the use of virtual worlds in the promotion of science.

“Second Life is a great communications tool for scientists and science educators,” according to Troy McConaghy, keynote speaker, “because it combines audio, video, 3D models, simulations, and real-time interaction under one immersive interface. It’s changing the way science is advanced and taught. This conference will give you a glimpse at the cutting edge of this new technology.”

Those participating in the conference will also be invited to be part of a live audience for “Science Friday,” the popular NPR radio show that is hosted in Second Life and broadcast live to radio stations across the United States.

The participants at a virtual world conference participate from their own computer, while an ‘avatar,’ or virtual representative of them, navigates through the 3-D environments and interacts with other avatars. Howard points out, however, that there is nothing virtual about the interactions at these conferences. “Behind every avatar is a person” he says. “And the networking and learning that can happen, with people from all over the world, is very real.”

Alliance Library System, co-sponsor of the “Stepping Into” series, is a multi-type library system headquartered in East Peoria, Illinois. Alliance has been a leader in developing ways for libraries to expand their missions and serve patrons in virtual worlds. Alliance is on the web at www.alliancelibrarysystem.com.

LearningTimes, is the leading producer of online communities and online conferences for education and training. Their clients and partners include educational and cultural institutions, non-profit organizations, associations and membership groups. LearningTimes provides the training, platforms, applications and expertise these organizations need to make their conferences a success. More information about LearningTimes can be found at www.learningtimes.net.

The cost for this day-long conference is $65, and participants may register for the conference at www.steppingintovirtualworlds.org.