[Air-L] New Study: Learning in the Wild of a Virtual World

Suzanne Aurilio pict at rohan.sdsu.edu
Mon Jan 4 14:44:23 PST 2010

Happy 2010 everyone,
I wanted to share the findings of my recently completed study, a
dissertation in education titled ³Learning in the Wild of a Virtual World.²
PDFs of the entire project are here http://tinyurl.com/yjojsu3, the abstract
is below.
Please forgive cross-posting.

Suzanne Aurilio
PS. I just realized I pdf-ed unsigned title pages, they have indeed been
signed ;).

Learning in the Wild of a Virtual World
This study took place in the online 3D virtual world Second Life®, a
recreational environment designed for world-building and socializing, and
intended for individuals 18 years old and older. It described learning from
the perspective of Second Life® Residents and focused on their
world-building activities. As a virtual ethnographer, my avatar interacted
with seven main participant-avatars in-world. Real life ages ranged from 33
years old to mid 50s; all but one were women. I collected data from 20 other
Residents also. The study contributes to a nascent body of educational
research exploring new forms of inquiry and practice conceived in virtual
worlds, and breaks new ground by positioning itself in terms of a
constructionist-learning context in which adults actively engage.

The findings reiterate previous research of learning in virtual worlds. It
is situated, social, intrinsically engaging and requires a high degree of
personal agency. Learning in Second Life®, however, typifies constructionist
principles, and qualities of adult learning which, in practice, are relevant
to children as learners too. The context-specific activities of
world-building invoke in learners a capacity to be self-directed
problem-solvers of concrete and personally meaningful tasks. These
activities result in novel expressive forms, and performative expressions of
self through one¹s avatar. World-building engenders artists¹ and artisans¹
habits of mind in the forms of learning-by-doing and trial and error.

Compared with the larger population, Second Life® Residents are
trailblazers. I therefore proposed cyborg learners/learning as a formulation
for characterizing the expressive forms and ways of learning documented

* Learners embody avatars in a 3D graphical space.
* They are geographically dispersed.
* They occupy at least two or more social and technological locations
* Learning is technologically and socially platform-specific.
* It is socially interdependent.
* It depends on intrinsically motivating activities.
* It engenders forms of learning-by-doing.

These findings contribute to a broad research paradigm addressing games for
learning, mobile learning, open learning, personal learning environments
(PLEs) and multi-user learning environments (MUVEs).

Suzanne Aurilio, PhD
Assistant Director
pICT - People, Information and Communication Technologies
San Diego State University
5500 Campanile Drive
San Diego, CA 92182-1623
Office AD220C

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