Virtual Worlds – What are They and Why do Educators Need to Pay Attention to Them?


Last week, as part of the Australian Flexible Learning Framework’s E-learning Networks June 19-20 Online Conference, I delivered a presentation called Virtual Worlds – What are They and Why do Educators Need to Pay Attention to Them? (with the help of Jo Kay of course!)

The recording of the Elluminate session is available here: (directly opens the Elluminate session).

My presentation notes and resources are here:

Overall, the presentation seemed to go quite well, although it’s always hard to tell with presentations in Elluminate.

I didn’t pay any attention to the chat channel… I focused on the presentation while Jo did a great job of fielding questions in chat. I always encourage chat – I like having a back channel going on. I like it that people are having rich conversations provoked by the topic that I am presenting. It’s great to see people sharing resources and helping each other out too.

As for my own performance, I was extremely tired as a result of burning the candle at both ends – one end being preparation for the presentation and the other end being our preparation for the successful In-World Presentation: Showcasing Australasian Educational Projects in Second Life we ran the very next day – so I wasn’t as sharp as I could have been.

I fluffed my punchline a bit. I wanted to finish up by making a point about the need for educators to pay attention to virtual worlds, or they will no longer be relevant in the eyes of Net Gen students who are growing up completely accustomed to avatarised environments.

I took the risk of using a famous clip from the South Park episode where the boys are represented playing World of Warcraft to illustrate this point. The language in it is very ‘blue’, which is typical of South Park, but the clip is funny, and I think it does a great job of illustrating the danger of teachers (and other adults) coming to be seen by the Net Gens as “artards” (r-tards… gamer speak for retards) for completely misunderstanding what young people are doing online, and the value of online interaction for them. My intention had been to shock, but not offend.

I wasn’t sure whether I was going to use the clip right up until the end, but the audience seemed pretty receptive up until that point, so I decided to let it rip. Unfortunately, between being tired and nervous, and feeling rushed as we were running out of time, I didn’t get a chance to actually say:

“The last reason I think educators need to pay attention to virtual worlds is so that our students don’t think we’re artards.”

In the rush I also didn’t give a blue language warning, which I regret, and to make matters worse the the clip kept looping! Several people seemed offended, which is understandable, but I think most people got the point.

Anyway… if you get chance check out the presentation resources – there is a lot there to explore about what’s happening in the virtual world space.

3 responses to “Virtual Worlds – What are They and Why do Educators Need to Pay Attention to Them?

  1. Great presentation Sean! I’ve been thinking a lot about just how many traditional roles of the government (education, transportation, currency) might be substituted by the Metaverse. It would seem that Google Earth is becoming somewhat of its own Metaverse, and a much more accessible/familiar one at that! The Google Goggles were missing from your list of perepherals –

    Keep up the good work!

  2. The archived flexible-learning conference presentation which included Sean Fitzgerald’s tour of virtual worlds was most enjoyable and valuable for the audiences appealed to via virtual worlds: gamers (like Sony’s home), fans of TV series (NY),Ccrporates, I enjoyed being able to see and hear his presentation via the archived Elluminate session. The message is there though—different audiences of at least a few ages are attracted to virtual worlds. He’s predicting a 3D web interface for the future. He’s predicting it’ll be a common web-presence and that people will have a couple avatars. It’s strange to hear people talk about developments in ten year increments any more—is usually too far out on the timeline.

    As for having at least a couple avatars, this item about avatars that could visit across virtual worlds is already out:

    Thanks to both of you,