Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Small Worlds - A simple yet powerful MUVE

Small Worlds is a simple, neat, fun, and "potentially" educational virtual world that doesn't require any downloading and installing of special software such as in Second Life. According to the developers, "SmallWorlds brings together the best aspects of online games, instant messaging, social networks and digital media, and wraps them into a persistent 3D virtual world." It's very easy to use and the graphics are pretty cool too. It kind of reminds me of the Nintendo Wii in some aspects. You can play mini golf, shoot pool, watch youtube videos, import your flickr photo album, etc. It might be an easier way for online students to hang out in a MUVE (multi user virtual environment) because there is no special software and getting around is quite easy. Plus, it might be cool to have office hours with your instructor over a game of pool or mini-golf. The gaming aspect of Small Worlds has great potential since the entire site is Flash based. Plus, they are opening up their API to flash developers so the games and widgets will probably be pretty cool; and if educators get a hold of it, I think they could develop some pretty neat educational materials as well. Go ahead and check it out and let us know what you think. My avatar's name is Ter Rock. I think a lot of research still needs to be done to discover what educational scenario's are most beneficial in the MUVE environment. What are your thoughts?


Linda Higbee Mandlebaum said...

I'm disappointed to see you using Small World when BGSU has spent time and money developing an excellent Second Life presence. I've had an office on the first BGSU island for a year and am preparing to pack it up for a move to one of the three new BGSU islands. In fact, I've spent the last year learning not just about SL and teaching in a MUVE, but also meeting and getting to know people all over the world. It's been a wonderful education.

If Small World is only a stepping stone to Second Life, that would be great, but I personally am not going to take time learning Small World when Second Life has such a rich learning environment waiting to be used. Since my area is special education, and the population of Second Life has a high percentage of people with disabilities, that's the environment I'm sticking with.

Linda Mandlebaum

Terence Armentano, M.Ed. said...

Don't be disappointed, I have a Second Life avatar as well, but this blog is about exploring many new and emerging technologies as they relate to and integrate with education. Small Worlds is built in Flash, which means it runs right in your browser, thus making it simple for anyone who is even remotely curious about MUVE's to give it a go. I recommend you try it out (it only takes a few minutes) so that you can do an honest comparison, and then report back your reactions at this blog. That's what this blog is all about...exploration, interaction, implementation, and discussion. I think it is great that BGSU has developed a Second Life Island and is really exploring the educational value of using Second Life, however, I wouldn't limit myself to only exploring one option. It would be similar to saying that because you learned how to use a CD player and really enjoy the high quality music, that you do not want to learn about MP3 players, even though they have numerous advantages to CD players (i.e. putting 1000 songs on a device the size of a thumb drive).

Mitch Olson said...

Hi Terence

I'm interested to start a dialogue about how SmallWorlds might be enhanced in order to provide a more effective learning environment.

Our product roadmap has a number of elements to support a range of User Generated Content for both end-users as well as developers and community leaders. The next stage in this process of opening up an API that will enable the development of games and "widgets". Beyond that we have programmable Non Player Characters and more so as to make easily accessible the creation of rich environments for learning and fun.

If you have any ideas about either how we could open this conversation to a broader audience, or, specific suggestions for SmallWorlds I would be pleased to hear them.


Mitch Olson

Anthony said...

I think this is the start of a great discussion!

Second Life allows BGSU educators to create immersive learning environments, interactive objects, and multimedia spaces. The creation of this content in Second Life is supported by Bonnie Mitchell and myself and our employees.

As with any technology on a campus as large as ours, it is important to develop and invest in a system that can be utilized by the majority while also promoting exploration, experimentation, and innovation in other/new technologies.

Mitch, it will be great to see what is done with the widgets in Small Worlds! I can see the benefit to widgets with a similar API being used in Facebook (RSS feeds, interactive whiteboards, cross platform communications (twitter), some of which exist in SL and some which do not. Will users be able to create/import 3D objects in your 3D world? Will Flash be utilized to build larger spaces (such as Universities or corporate sites) or simply decorate with developer supplied content? Thus, far that key component is what has separated SL from There, the Sims, and others.

I was telling Terence in email that I think the next big breakthrough for SL is web on a prim. If that happens then I can be in SL with Linda standing next to me and an internet window in front of me, talking to Terence in Small Worlds! Wouldn't that be cool?!

Anthony Fontana
Administrator, BGSU Virtual Campus in SL.

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