Exploring the educational potential of virtual worlds — Some reflections from the Schome Park Programme.
British Journal of Educational Technology, 40(3)
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This paper describes and reflects on the development of the Schome Park Programme (SPP), which was established with the specific aim of extending our thinking about schome, which aims to be the optimal educational system for the 21st century.
In an earlier stage of the Schome Initiative, it became clear that people find it almost impossible to break free from established conceptions of education. Open virtual worlds like Second Life® virtual world offer opportunities for people to have radically different ‘lived experiences’ of educational systems and thus seemed to be the ideal vehicle for exploring alternative models of education. The SPP therefore set out in late 2006 to use Teen Second Life® virtual world to support the development of the vision of schome, informed by current understandings about learning, pedagogy and the ‘tools’ available to us today.
This paper provides an overview of the first three phases of the SPP and briefly outlines the research methodologies used within it. This leads into a discussion of the potential of virtual worlds to support pedagogical exploration, which in turn leads to consideration of three dimensions of practice that emerged from the SPP. These three dimensions, which correspond closely with a framework developed in post-compulsory education, are illustrated by use of descriptions of activities and other data from the SPP. The paper concludes by raising questions about the extent to which pedagogical practices will change in the future as a result of the opportunities offered by virtual worlds.
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