Avatars could actually be helpful in learning skills

One of the most common knocks against the virtual worlds and the avatars we use to negotiate our way though them is that they cause us, and especially young people, to disengage from real life.

Well it turns out that this may not actually be the case.

The Academics on the Inter-Life project created “Virtual Worlds” that were meant to act as private communities where young people would be able to interact in shared activities using avatars. The project was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and was created to offer the possibility of realistic interactive environments that could also go beyond typical curriculum.

Students were encouraged to undertake projects like film-making and project activities with the virtual environment.

The project’s lead researcher, Professor Victor Lally, said: “We demonstrated that you can plan activities with kids and get them working in 3D worlds with commitment, energy and emotional involvement, over a significant period of time.”

“It’s a highly engaging medium that could have a major impact in extending education and training beyond geographical locations,” Professor Lally added. “3D worlds seem to do this in a much more powerful way than many other social tools currently available on the internet. When appropriately configured, this can offer safe spaces to experience new learning opportunities that seemed unfeasible only 15 years ago.”

via PhysOrg

The project is a part of the larger Technology Enhanced Learning research program and looks to help narrow the gap between young people’s experience of learning and the technological world we have to deal with every day.

I don’t know about you but this sounds a lot like Second Life but without the sex.