Virtual Learning Toys and Tools


It’d been awhile since I traded text with Kimberly Rufer-Bach (aka Kim Anubis) of the Second Life developer group “The Magicians” (Link). After she stopped by here last week to inform me of the NASA CoLab project in Second Life (reLink), I made a point to see what she and her team had been up to. I’ve previously mentioned projects by the Electric Sheep Company (reLink), Millions of Us (reLink), and Anshe Chung (reLink) so I thought this would be an opportunity to see what else has been developing. Besides, when I was mostly a lone voice debating trademark issues on the old Second Life forum, Kim was one of the very few who jumped in to support my position; not an especially popular move but one that I appreciated.

Anyway, a few days ago I was treated to a peek of their development sim where The Magicians team has been creating content for their various clients. I had an opportunity to play with a few interesting pieces but the one I really liked was a language education tool called “Click It!” (shown above) for (Link); a learning game with which I was unfamiliar that requires the player/student to identity objects in a foreign language. Having always been intrigued with anything that uses “temp-on-rez“, a function which materializes objects seemingly out of thin air, this effort impressed me enough to ask permission to share it here (the service is currently in beta, so some of you might already be familiar with this; and a test version has been placed out in SL for people to try).

At this point it’s probably worthwhile for me to point out a related conversation over on the Design Sojourn blog (Link) where the author is looking at the videogame “flOw” from a product design perspective. Being familiar with “flOw” and having previously pointed out the ways in which videogames/virtual worlds could be used in the design of User Interfaces (Link – to Core forum), it’s great to see a broader discussion beginning to form. I know a number of designers who prototype their interfaces using Flash, but the ability to test an interface in the context of an activity (e.g. giant claw to move hazardous chemical containers) seems much more engaging and compelling to me.

With the coming flood of virtual world applications and new developments to current offerings, I’m watching to see which one is the first to provide easy-to-use functionality for mashing up traditional User Interface design with 3D content creation. Whichever application provides that capability is where I’ll be watching for the next batch of design ideas.