For the next two days, I will be attending Virtual Worlds 2008, a conference to be held at the Javits Center in New York City. My interest in being there is to learn about an emerging digital sector that is creating compelling new ways of communicating. Education is a form of communicating, at least in part. Will educators be leaders at this conference? Well, no. Maybe they should be. It is advertising and entertainment that are the big thought leaders for digital communication, while educators are primarily still back in the print era. Maybe educators will step up soon to use virtual world possibilities for learning.
The picture here of Reuben Steiger is from the homepage of one of the major sponsors of the conference at Javits Center, Millions of Us. The image is a frame from a video in which he describes how Tivo has become much-used because people don’t like advertising. He goes on to say that for advertisers a good answer to that problem is creating advertising that is entertaining so people would not skip it if they were given a choice. He says that “virtual worlds are amazing for this, but so are social networks.” Steiger goes on to explain that he founded Millions are Us as a company to follow these methods for advertising.
Are you following the parallel for education? The old ways of doing education are often what students will go to great lengths to skip. Why not use new arts and technologies that can actually make education material entertaining? Why not do some educating in virtual worlds and social networks?
Here is a virtual reality check for educators: Listen to Reuben Steiger on his Millions of Us video and while you do, think about how the methods he proposes for advertising could engage millions of students in learning. Steiger tells us we are in the “avatar age” and sketches how advertisers can participate effectively in that age. How can we properly parallel this kind of path for learning, or must, or should education not adopt the tools that advertising is picking up?