Friday, February 09, 2007

Virtual Worlds and the Teaching of Economics -- It's Real!

(updated February 11, 2007)
Click on the image to the right and read about Digital Game-Based Learning, and read on...

One game is Second Life is a virtual reality game that all can access and partake in. My wife and I have explored only the surface as we gain an avatar and customize it and begin to walk around this environment. Our University is discussing how we can bring gaming to the classroom for education and there are some examples out there. One of these is in the Athens News (1/29/2007) - "Virtual-reality software creates parallel campus, enhances education" and talks about a class held by Paul Shovlin inside Second Life. Read it it is pretty interesting with even a duplicate Ohio University inside Second Life. While Paul's class is in writing and other course are planned, a few notable persons in the lead are economists.

The number three most downloaded paper in the Social Science Research Library is "Virtual Worlds: A First-Hand Account of Market and Society on the Cyberian Frontier" by Economist Edward Castronova, Indiana University Bloomington - Department of Telecommunications with 37,653 copies being downloaded ranking him as 15th among all authors. Clearly there is something here. He has 13 papers on virtual worlds and synthetic economies on his author page. No one is quite in the lead on discussions of the economies of virtual economies like he is. He even has his own wikipepia article. His blog TERRA NOVA is about virtual worlds and their implications. It has been in existance since September 2003. I highly recommend that you look around his Synthetic Worlds Institute at Indiana University (where he is director) and especially note their current project ARDEN: The World of William Shakespeare.

Jeff Sarbaum teaches a course in introductory economics in a on-line virtual world at UNC Greesboro. While he does not use second life he does use a virtual world. See "Aliens Teach University Economics Class" (by Nell Boyce, NPR) for some pictures and a description. Here is an article from the Duke Instructional Technology Showcase on Sarbaum's game: "Serious Games: Digital Game-Based Learning in Higher Education." An article in Campus Technology also reviews the game.

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