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Thursday, March 04, 2010

Using Virtual Worlds in the Conspiracy to Create an ah-ha Moment

Abbott Bundy with his backpack and walking
 stick ready to embark on a story quest with his guides.

Yesterday, I had the privilege of touring a fascinating project in the 3D virtual immersive environment of Second Life. It is called The Virtual Worlds Story Project with the tag line "Weaving the Narrative Threads of Our Lives." If you want to gain a glimpse into an effective and exciting way to provide context, experience and learning, this is the place you should check out. The method used is called a story quest.

My tour guides for the experience were Marty Keltz and Jena Ball who have created a three-dimensional experience engineered to teach about the HIV/AIDS pandemic called The Life and Times of Uncle D.
Exploring Uncle D's cabin and learning about his life.

The goal of the experience is for the learner to gain an understanding and appreciation of the impact of HIV/AIDS through the exploration of one person's life by visiting the everyday places where he lived and by immersing in the experience and letting it touch and move the learner. It is a Constructivist approach to learning and the environment creates opportunities for learning by allowing the learner to interact in the story...ok, so that is the academic definition but that doesn't do the project justice. A better explanation was provided by Marty.

Marty said he was involved in a "conspiracy to create an ah-ha moment."

Wow, what a great concept! Shouldn't all designers of instruction be involved in that conspiracy? Instead we seem to be involved in something a lot less exciting, interesting or even educational. Yesterday I also spoke to a client about ethics training...wouldn't a conspiracy to create an ah-ha moment be an excellent goal for the design of ethics training or diversity training or sales training, etc. Instead we tend to strive for "awareness."

We are all "aware" of things but never act based on that awareness. Many people are aware they should exercise every day...doesn't happen. Others are aware that cigarettes will kill them, and they say so between puffs. Others are aware that texting while driving can be deadly...yet they text away-try texting DOA. Employees are aware of policies, procedures and protocals but take shortcuts to get the job done. Awareness is petty crime compared to a conspiracy.

Conspiracies take coordination, effort, planning and a deep understanding of what needs to be done. These adjectives rarely describe the level of effort dedicated to organizational efforts to change behavior through learning experiences. We need to stop creating awareness and start to create conspiracies. What better place to start than in a 3D Virtual Immersive Environment. Involving learners in a story where they can interact and react is the first step in the conspiracy in which we should all partake. We can hide clues, engineer experiences and force situations that can create cognitive dissonance in learners which will ultimately lead to learning and behavior change as a result of that learning.

To get a better idea of what this kind of conspiracy looks like, check out a trailer for The Uncle D Story Quest:

And check out the interview with Marty Keltz and Jena Ball at the Second Life blog in an interview with Pathfinder Linden.

Today, leave behind petty educational endeavors and get involved with a conspiracy to create an ah-ha moment.

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