School of Education

Knowledge Technology Lab

Dr. Avigail Oren

What am I doing here?

Two years ago I became interested in the possibilities of virtual reality for the humanities. I encountered the term "cyberspace" and found that its definition is not clear and simple. It was coined by William Gibson, and according to his description a graphic representation of data flow is the main feature of the virtual environment.

Cyberspace. A consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation... a graphic representation of data abstracted from the banks of every computer in the human system. Lines of light ranged in the nonspace of the mind, clusters and constellations of data.(W. Gibson, Neuromancer, 1984)

Bearing this in mind and thinking about the value of texts, I thought about 3-D fonts and situations in which students "walk" inside words and sentences. At this stage I learned through Bary Kort about the idea of a text-based virtual reality called MUSE. Though I did not stop my endeavors to develop 3-D virtual environments, I found the idea of a MUSE fascinating.

Because my previous experiences with computers and education were with databases, I felt that a MOO might be a new form of a database in cyberspace. That is the view that I hold and would like to describe in this web.

MOOing is more than writing.

Is MUD/MOO a virtual environment?

The notion of MUD/MUSE/MOO was inspired by role-playing games that simulate social phenomena, varying from conflicts to cooperation. The development of the term cyberspace influenced the theoretical aspects of MUD/MOO. Because they are literal descriptions of spaces, objects, and plot, they were defined as text-based virtual environments.

We should bear in mind the significance of the term data flow, especially when we encounter definitions that describe virtual environments as 3-D graphical designs simulating real worlds. These definitions might question the virtuality of MUD/MOO. We might reject the graphical dominance considering the point of view presented by Ryan (1994). While discussing books and movies as "virtual environments," she claims that their immersive power evolves from their being non-interactive technologies. On the contrary, the essence of computerized virtual environments lies in the strong relation between immersion and interaction.

In a MOO, the duality of immersion and interaction is more than clear. The immersion derives from the way a MOO might simulate the real world through its structure and metaphors. The interactive nature derives from the communicative features it owns.

MOO and Education

Recently educators became interested in the potential of MOO for educational purposes.

The idea that a MOO is appropriate for education is based on three arguments:

On-line communication in a group setting creates a social environment which may foster learning and instruction.

Literal skills might be developed as a result of the textual nature of the environment.

Active Learning is achieved by browsing the environment and interacting with its objects.

In light of these arguments, MOOs are widely used not only as social environments but also as a tool for improving literacy skills.

During a course I taught at the School of Education at Tel-Aviv University dealing with computer networks and education, we examined the concept of MOO. You may find the arguments mentioned above in these pages designed by students who participated in this course.

After experiencing MOOing for myself, I have to agree with Tari Lin Fanderclai that when new technologies are integrated in education, there is a tendency to use old pedagogical concepts rather than developing new concepts. That is to say that the arguments mentioned above about the educational potential of a MOO are related to pedagogical ideas called "progressive" but are not newborn from the technology's features.

To the educational potential of a MOO

To read about applying a MOO