Friday, May 23, 2008

Virtual Worlds 'useful' for children

Virtual worlds can be valuable places where children rehearse what they will do in real life, reveals research.

They are also a "powerful and engaging" alternative to more passive pursuits such as watching TV, said the BBC-sponsored study.

The research was done with children using the BBC's Adventure Rock virtual world, aimed at those aged 6-12.

Prof Gauntlett said the research revealed that children assumed one of
eight roles when exploring a virtual world and using the tools they put
at their disposal.

At times children were explorers and at others they were social
climbers keen to connect with other players. Some were power users
looking for more information about how the workings of the virtual

Social climbers
Collector consumers
Power users
Life system builders

Prof Gauntlett said online worlds were very useful rehearsal spaces
where children could try all kinds of things largely free of the
consequences that would follow if they tried them in the real world.

For instance, he said, children trying out Adventure Rock
learned many useful social skills and played around with their identity
in ways that would be much more difficult in real life.

Prof Gauntlett said what children liked about virtual worlds was the
chance to create content such as music, cartoons and video and the
tools that measured their standing in the world compared to others.

"The kids know what they are doing and are very good at telling you in
a brutally honest and forthright manner about what they want to see,"
said Wil Davies, a teacher at Peterston Super Ely primary in Glamorgan,
from where some of the research subjects were drawn.

Irene Sutherland said: "Children were adamant about the bits they did not
play but were full of ideas about how to improve them."

Article Link (BBC)

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