Monday, June 29, 2009

Quest Atlantis at NECC: Using Virtual Worlds to Teach Net Citizenship

Comment came from the panel at the Quest Atlantis session this afternoon with regard to something that came up during one of the leadership sessions at NECC 2009.

One of the members there suggested that we just get beyond fear.

Start acting like educators and stop being afraid of making mistakes.

Allow mistakes to produce innovation.

And that's so right on. Maybe we should ask the folks who demand we live by the rules of their fear exactly what it is that they've innovated recently.

None of us want kids to be put in harms' way. I've got three elementary aged kids of my own. I want them to be safe online.

But in the same way that you need to go through the somewhat dangerous practice of driver's ed in order to teach a kid how to drive safely, you need to teach kids how to exist in the virtual realm in order to teach them how to be a responsible Web citizen.

Quest Atlantis is exactly the type of virtual world to allow this sense of play and learning about virtual worlds among schoolkids.


In the same session, the question of strangers and meeting people online came up.

Quest Atlantis itself is a very safe virtual environment for kids. Second Life it is not. It's more of a practice world where students get to take in all different sorts of lessons.

But there's really an even bigger reason we need kids to learn to manage their online lives as young people. Because, the world that they will enter into as young adults will be a world where they can NOT hide from strangers and the unknown. It is a world in which -- if they are going to be successful -- they will have to be prepared to ENGAGE strangers and the unknown.

Rather than hide from strangers, the panel threw down the real gauntlet:
"We should be TRYING to meet other people".

What it comes down to is this: we need to teach kids how to become citizens of the world. This doesn't mean we want to throw them into some imaginary nest of Internet perverts in a Second Life whorehouse. It means we want them to understand that 'being connected' means being connected to everyone; and that with connection comes responsibility.

And - most of all -- it means that you are not the center of, but rather a vital part of that world. You and billions of other people.

Student-centered virtual worlds such as Quest Atlantis are precisely the type of place where this education in digital citizenship can start.


Get beyond fear.

No fear of technology. No fear of one another.

Idealistic? Yes.

Necessary? Absolutely.

Possible? If you want it.


  1. Shelly,

    I was the ustreamer at the front of the room of the Quest Atlantis session and I truly appreciate your post. As a beginning teacher in QA, I have learned many things about kids and on-line interaction. I could not have expressed better than you...what I believe to be the most important thing that students in QA are learning. So thank you very much for this post.

    Are you on twitter?


  2. Jeff

    I tweet as @TeachPaperless

    Really great session. Can't wait to get started experimenting with QA.

    - Shelly

  3. Obviously spent too much time on FB 'cause I was looking for a "thumb's up" sign in my Google Reader. Excellent!! There are times in one's (educational) life where you need to close your eyes, hold your nose, and jump!

    Now, I need to check out Quest Atlantis...

  4. And I think that the notion that we have to move beyond fear is the point. THat's what we're out to do. Move beyond fear, because it's so 1999, already.

    see you tomorrow?


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