Today’s middle school students represent a generation growing up where digital tools abound and where using them for home and school is the norm. Virtual learning environments to include multi-user virtual environments (MUVEs) are fairly new to formal educational settings as teaching and learning tools but are growing in popularity. These learning environments have an ability to reach all levels of students in ways that are both familiar and appealing. This chapter reviews interest and trends in educational games and describes beginning teacher reactions to using one of these critical thinking tools designed for middle school students. Recommendations for future implementation in classrooms are made. Faculty perspectives about these newer forms of educational technology are explored.
Key Terms in this Chapter
MUVE (plural MUVEs): Multi-User Virtual Environment refers to online opportunities accessed over the Internet, often in a game format, that allows for numerous simultaneous users to interact in a virtual world.
Virtual World: A computer-based simulated online community intended for users to inhabit and interact via avatars, often in game or simulation format which is similar to activities that occur in the real world.
Simulation Games: Structured activities that challenge players to use strategy, skill and chance to participate in some aspect relating to the real world that are more about discovery learning than on winning.
Avatar: A virtual (not real) representation of a player in a game.
River City: A computer-simulated virtual environment that immerses participants in analysis of environmental and cultural issues of a certain time period, designed at the Harvard Graduate School of Education to meet national middle school science content standards.
Digital Students: Today’s students who are used to rapid communication through multiple digital devices and may have different learning styles than students in the past.