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EDTECH 531: Virtual Worlds and Their Inhabitants

I know I must come off as the crankiest person on Earth at times, but I am actually quite picky with my enthusiasm and what I am asked to do. At the moment, I’m in a quest that is asking me to analyze Chapter 2 of Communities of Play by Celia Pearce. The chapter is about virtual worlds and the characters that are in them.

At first I was excited that I’d have an opportunity to read some theory to go with all the Minecrafting I’ve been doing. After all, this is a course for graduate school. Well, I had forgotten my biases when reading published works. It drives me nuts to read something written by an author who is continuously quoting her own publications. Sure, rank up that citation count, why don’t you. Are there no other people who have found data to agree with yours? Is it because what you are doing is so new and novel nobody else has figured it out like you are able to?

So, my first negative impression was because I kept hearing “Pearce” as the citation. You see, if I can get Kindle to read to me, I do. I will also read along while it talks to me, but sometimes my eyes just don’t want to work so I listen. This is not the best chapter to listen to if you don’t want to hear the same person being cited repeatedly. Now that I can be more focused with my reading, I need to rescind this impression. She does a good job of gathering several citations that go beyond her name.

My second negative impression is using the words ludisphere and paidiaic. I’ve heard the words luddite and pedantic before. Are they related to these “new” words? I actually had to run a Google search on the words so I could get a clue what they mean. As brilliant as Pearce is, I did not find a dime store explanation of these words. That is not to say it wasn’t there. It is saying I did not decipher it. Fortunately, Rob MacDougall blogged about this in May, 2010.

He defines ludus and paidia in a way that makes sense to me! Thank you Mr. MacDougall. Simply put, ludus are serious situations where when in such a situation, a sense of humor is not necessarily an asset. Paidia, on the other hand, concerns that sense of humor. If the situation is or can be frivolous, then it has paidia characteristics.

Now that I understand this part, maybe I will be able to actually do the quest I have been asked to complete.

I made a set of slides in ppt because I was going to just submit that for the quest. Unfortunately I am required to make a video. So I used 4 of the slides and what was supposed to be a 3 min video became 7 min. I’m must not psyched to make a video at the moment. Last night I made the slides thinking I’d do the recording today. Silly me, I forgot I’m a pinhead on Tuesday nights so wearing a headset to talk is less than comfortable.

Communities of Play

truncated slide show community of play


The 7 min video with my babbling.


EDTECH 531: Full Immersion

Quest: Full Immersion

I actually have to make a video response to what I learn in this quest. Being me, however, I will also be taking notes here so that when I go to make the video, I remember what was important to me.

I wrote a paper on the Community of Inquiry for a class a couple years ago. Chris Dede’s paper starts off talking about an Immersive Presence. Although he has citations for explaining the immersive presence, it is new to me. Cognitive, social and teaching presences make sense to m,e and I have often tried to find them happening in discussions I have with classmates. Sometimes I even ask questions to try to stimulate a teaching presence. Now I’m thinking, though, about an immersive presence. It goes beyond a social presence. A social presence validates that a person is a person who has something to offer the group. In contrast, the immersive presence is the feeling of physically being in the alternative environment. (I wrote about this, too, in a paper for the Edutainment class.)

The immersive presence uses tools that allow for sensory information to be transmitted to the player. It is being able to feel resistance when trying to push or pull on an object. The sound is in stereo as if you are among the noise. Actional immersion translates the player’s actions into real life happening in the virtual world. If my character can fly, then somehow I get a perspective that is commensurate to a person who is flying. The creators of the virtual world also utilize symbolic immersion which is designed to evoke emotional responses from the participants. In many cases, they are creatures or features that stimulate fear.

I am glad I’m doing this quest after having spent a few weeks being addicted to Minecraft because I can relate to what is being said in the paper. While Minecraft is not fully immersive, it uses sounds to warn me of danger, and I really do feel anxiety when I’m chopping blocks above a possible lava pit. It is strange how I can experience fear in a game where the worst thing that happens is I die, lose all of my possessions, and then have to start over if I choose to respawn.

I liken the exocentric and egocentric descriptions to being outdoors in Minecraft, wandering around the land in daylight being exocentric, and falling into a pit and exploring the inside of a mountain or cave being egocentric. I’m not sure they intended this parallel to be created when they wrote the paper, especially since the paper was written before Minecraft existed, but I can relate much easier to Minecraft examples than I can the ones provided in the paper. I can’t really tell from the perspectives that one is outside Newton’s world and the other one is inside it. Maybe it is that spatial thing again? I like how he goes on to relate the exocentric perspective as seeing the forest instead of the trees because that is a component of Minecraft. Now I’m thinking about how the distant biomes that show up do contribute to my motivation. I find part of my addiction is being curious about what I will find if I…

They mention Second Life in the article. Maybe it is not as old as I first thought. The paper discusses how they used River City to gather data. I’ve actually heard of River City, but can’t place it at the moment. This also sounds a bit like IMMEX, which I was remotely involved with about 15 years ago. I don’t know what has come of IMMEX. (KIE became something else- need to look that up, too.)

I am not sure I am pleased with the phrase “academic loser”, but I know what they are trying to say. Personally I want avatars to not have to look like people and if they do, I want to not have the pressure of feeling like I have to pick a white female to represent me. I am genetically a white female, but why do I have to be one online, too? With respect to their other “findings”, I am not convinced that the student identifies with being a scientist in the virtual environment as much as it is he is no longer himself wearing dirty clothes and possibly needing a shower. The avatar is clean (unless he chooses it not to be). In the virtual world, the student can be the image s/he has always wanted to be.  Students also don’t have their peers necessarily looking directly at them like what happens in a face to face classroom. Some of my best class sessions were with the “academic losers” who did not get to go on a field trip that the college-prep students got to attend. The pressure to prove themselves or perhaps it was the fear of making mistakes, I’m not completely sure why the classroom atmosphere changed, but it did. My non-college-prep students behaved as if they could do anything on those days, and quite often they did.

While I want to see what technology can do to supplement hands-on learning, I am still skeptical that it will ever be as good as having students do real labs. There is just something about using a micropipettor for real that you can’t feel when you do it virtually, unless you can figure out how to hook up some equipment to the game that mimics a micropipettor. Feeling the spring and learning how to control it is critical to having good micropipetting techniques. Then again, with the way things are becoming automated, I don’t know if researchers will still have to do their own pipetting in the near future.

Toward the end of the paper, they pose 4 questions, of which some I share. I’m not too sure what they mean by bicentric frames of reference, so I can’t claim that question to also be a concern that I have. I also wonder if having a virtual persona enhances one in the real world or if it causes a bipolar type of personality. This is very close to their 2nd question, “To what extent can the successes of one’s virtual identity in immersive environments induce greater self-efficacy and educational progress in the real world?” Has my success in Minecraft done anything to help me feel more successful as a person?

About the video part of this assignment…

You believed so you’d belong.

As he talks about “belief” I keep thinking of how people ask me if I believe in evolution. Evolution is not a belief. It is a scientific process that is supported by data and evidence.

Where is fiction allowed to exist? When is role playing effective?

Comparing the video and the paper:

Both want to take people beyond the chair they are sitting in and have them be physically involved with the content they are learning.

The paper wanted to have students be immersed, totally surrounded, by the learning environment. They wanted to include some authentic examples in the learning process.

The video stressed suspending the disbelief we have with fiction. I am not completely sure why we are watching a video that stresses fiction whereas the paper seemed to want to make the learning process more realistic and like non-fiction.

My quest submission:

I decided to make cartoons that I’ll videotape with narration. If you’re curious about the cartoons:

Full immersion and reality

Full immersion and reality

The first image reflects what is said in both the video and the paper. In each situation, they want the reader or participant to be engaged to the point it feels like reality.

The second image has to do with allowing fiction to feel like reality. What can we do to fully manifest what we are experiencing in a virtual world?


cartoon of theories

When fiction becomes reality

The last image is a challenge to the idea of climate change. People are still arguing if it is real or not. I could have done a cartoon with evolution. During the video I kept thinking about how people think evolution is something to believe in, when it is not. Yes it is a scientific theory, but it is based on scientific evidence. You don’t “believe” in evolution. It is not a religious argument.

To accompany the climate change as a debatable theory idea, I had to capture an image of an article that came out in last week’s Nature.

More climate change arguments.

More climate change arguments.


The video I made: