Synthetic worlds and games/simulations (ala Second Life, or World of Warcraft) have begun to make news in k-12 and higher education. What are the positive or negative implications of gaming in education? Are the best practices for gaming in education? How can you use games or simulations in your instruction? Unfortunately, there are not easy answers to any of these questions yet. Fortunately, some great people in higher education are working on these questions as I type this blog post.
One such scholar, right here at Indiana University is Dr. Ted Castronova, a faculty member in the Department of Telecommunications. Dr. Castronova has garnered recent press for his work and research on the economics and implications (positive and negative) of synthetic worlds. In addition, he has written a book entitled, Synthetic Worlds: The Business and Culture of Online Games. Castronova has also recently founded the Synthetic Worlds Institute whose goal is to raise awareness of these issues among major decision-makers. The Institute’s main activity is to host an annual conference, called the Ludium, which attempts to use the technology of games to stoke intellectual productivity. Recently Dr. Castronova received a MacArthur Foundation Grant to construct a multiplayer synthetic world in which he is basing the world of Shakespeare to both educate students and provide other social scientists with a new research tool. Here is another article from Cnet.com regarding the Arden project.