In a couple of minutes, I’m going to be publishing a guest post from Nicole Yankelovich, Executive Director of the new OpenWonderland Foundation. For those who don’t know, OpenWonderland is an open source platform for creating virtual worlds similar to what you would find in Second Life. The project was originally hosted at Sun, but Oracle chose not to continue development and worked with the OpenWonderland Foundation to make sure they had what they needed to be able to continue the project independently.
My own sense of virtual worlds for education is that we’re in the trough of disillusionment on the hype cycle:
On the one hand, the majority of “teaching” activity that I have seen in Second Life has consisted of rooms full of virtual people sitting in virtual chairs looking around the virtual heads of other virtual people to see virtual screens upon which actual PowerPoint slides are virtually projected.
Waste. Of. Time.
But on the other hand, it seems to me that anyone who thinks that’s all the value there can be in virtual worlds is experiencing a massive failure of imagination. At the very least, if simulations have proven to be valuable educational tools, then why shouldn’t Second Life be at least as valuable as a flexible simulation environment? And I think that’s just the beginning. Coincidentally, Alan Levine recently posted a great rebuttal to the SL haters that includes good examples of the value of a virtual world.
I think you’ll enjoy hearing what Nicole has to say.