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Virtual worlds and learning

Constance Steinkuehler (Constance Steinkuehler is Assistant Professor at University of Wisconsin‐Madison, Madison, Wisconsin, USA)
Kurt Squire (Kurt Squire is Associate Professor, at University of Wisconsin‐Madison, Madison, Wisconsin, USA.)

On the Horizon

ISSN: 1074-8121

Article publication date: 30 January 2009




This brief introductory paper aims to outline seven key principles for educators thinking about life in a continuously partial virtual world.


The seven educational design principles are based on observations of both successes and failures the authors have encountered in their work as the “Games, Learning and Society” (GLS) Initiative.


The seven principles of virtual world cultures that educators should address (if not capitalize on) are: ubiquitous access to information, overlapping copresences, collective intelligence, learners as information producers and not just consumers, authentic participation, learners as designers of messages, and student autonomy.

Practical implications

Already, inside and outside of classrooms, students participate in virtual worlds of their own choosing with genuine consequence for what and how they learn. As such virtual spaces/communities become increasingly ubiquitous to work and play, traditional power structures in schools fall under increasing pressure. This brief paper provides initial heuristics that educators might use to design compelling curricula that take for granted that students will access online content whenever they so please.


Rather than advocating the effort to continue firewalling out the digital world and cultures of today's youth, the paper suggests building on them.



Steinkuehler, C. and Squire, K. (2009), "Virtual worlds and learning", On the Horizon, Vol. 17 No. 1, pp. 8-11.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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