Rik Panganiban: Global Kids “Aha!” Moments from 2008


11.10.08 | Global Kids has learned a lot in the past year about how to best leverage the virtual world to promote the public good and effect real world change.  On November 17, we look forward to sharing some of those lessons during the event “Real World Impact from the Virtual World” being co-sponsored with the USC Network Culture Project and the MacArthur Foundation.  Please see our website for details and the latest news about this event.

Here is a sampling of some of the strategies Global Kids employed in the past year to promote the public good in virtual worlds:

Networking People Across Worlds and Communities:  In March of this year, we launched RezEd.org, a social network for virtual world educators. Since then, we’ve learned that there is a clearly felt need to connect people across disciplines and around the world who are interested in using virtual worlds for learning. Beyond Second Life, which is the most used platform for education in virtual worlds, many of the members of the RezEd community are active in a variety of other virtual world and massively multiplayer online game environments, from Club Penguin to Eve Online.  Growing out of a beta site that launched in March 2008, the community has grown to over 1,300 members from around the world.

Connecting Across the Participation Divide: As part of the launch of the International Justice Center in Second Life, Global Kids commissioned the creation of a tool to connect people in the developing world—particularly in African nations—with people in virtual worlds.  In September, we publicly launched on the Teen Grid “Switchboard,” a device that enables avatars in Second Life to exchange text messages with anyone around the world with access to a cell phone.  This launch event successfully brought together a teenager in Uganda with a dozen teens in Second Life, who chatted about education and HIV/AIDS in Africa. (See the “Switchboard” blog post for more info about this project.)

Employ Multiple Learning Strategies:  Our “I Dig Tanzania” and “Deconstructing Darfur” programs combined a number of strategies to expose young people in Teen Second Life to different social issues (sustainable development in Africa, paleontology, the humanitarian crisis in Sudan). We used a number of different approaches to engage them—from showing them videos, connecting them with experts in the field, to having them conduct internet research. At the conclusion of these projects, they created their own projects to summarize and present their learning to a wider audience.  (See the “I Dig Tanzania” video and “Deconstructing Darfur” blog post for more info about these projects.)

Simulcasting Is More than Just Streaming Bits: Global Kids was involved in the simulcasting into virtual worlds and the web of several real life events, including an awards ceremony featuring Kofi Annan and an address by Desmond Tutu.  We have learned that effectively simulcasting an event takes careful planning at both the real world venue and in the virtual site.  In the real world, speakers need to tailor their addresses for both a virtual and real world audience while moderators should be listening for questions from either realm.  In the virtual world, the avatar participants need to be prepared for what they are watching and given activities that connect them with the content more actively.  (See our video on the Kofi Annan simulcast in 4 virtual worlds and the web.)

As we look back at this past year and plan for our next, we have a number of questions that we think deserve attention:

  • How can a social network help build the field of digital media learning through a community of practice?
  • How can a coalition of individuals and groups take on ownership of a virtual community started by another organization (Global Kids)? 
  • How do you develop a sustainable coalition/community in a virtual world?
  • How do we develop practices for altering the design of a real world event to account for the affordances of a virtual audience? 
  • How can moving a video stream outside the confines of a conference’s set agenda create new opportunities for engaging a virtual audience with content, presenters and the participants from a real world event?

We look forward to working with a range of groups and individuals in the coming year to seek answers to these important questions. Editor’s Note: See additional posts about the “Real World Impact from the Virtual World” event here and here.



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