-- the Labyrinth May 1993 --
is currently experimenting with a new space
for learning - the virtual school. The virtual school is
based on some of the most contemporary experimental work in
the use of abstract space - virtual reality. In virtual
reality systems, users become participants in an abstract
space where the physical machine and physical viewer do no
exist. Virtual reality (VR) is complex both conceptually and
technologically. VR is something more than the sum of its
technologies - it is a communication media where the
participant explores, plays, and discovers through
interactions with this computer-generated world. In virtual
reality, the participant use accounterments such as head-
mounted stereoscopic displays, gloves, bodysuits, and audio
systems to create the illusion of a realistic 3-D world with
which to interact.
- An Experimental Learning Community
What is the MUSE?
In the MUSE, the participant uses no accounterments and have
no visual stimuli. The stimuli and the experiences in the
MUSE come from one's own creativity and imagination.
Students are transported to this abstract space via a
computer into a world of text. In the MUSE, a participant is
connected to a server (the MUSE) which has a database full
of objects, people, places, etc. The time spent in this
environment involves interaction with the characters of the
database. Interactions with characters most commonly take
place in interior or exterior spaces called rooms. It is the
characters of the MUSE who are able to manipulate the
environment and interact with one another. MUSE supports a
multi-player/character setting where many computer users can
connect simultaneously to the server and partake of the
virtual reality together.
- the MUSE at Maricopa
There are several classes at Phoenix College and Mesa
currently experimenting with the MUSE environment for
learning. Billie Hughes is using MariMUSE as part of her
EDU221 course. Jim Walters also at PC is currently using the
MUSE and so is Greg Swan at Mesa Community College.
The Think Tank Project is proposing a virtual school for at-
risk children at Longview Elementary School in Phoenix. The
goal of this project is to improve student's reading,
writing, and self-esteem through interactions with this
highly motivational environment. Students would spend 3
hours a day in virtual space, communicating with others
around the country, learning to use electronic mail,
discovering information resources on the network, and
building their own space in the virtual community. The MUSE
environment provides support to student projects via
volunteers from across the country connected by Internet.
Currently, volunteers from Cleveland Freenet provide support
for our community college students.
MariMUSE and Learning
offers unlimited possibilities to explore new
avenues for learning, discovery, and creativity as well as
the use of alternative measures for assessment. Issues
currently being investigated and discussed are the
- What new forms of collaboration are possible in
- What can designers of virtual worlds do to increase
the chances for rich learning experiences and interactions?
- Are these environments precursors to more complex and
sophisticated environments in which traditional boundaries
of work, play, and learning are re-evaluated and redefined?
- Do participants see themselves differently when they
interact in a virtual world?
- What are the implications for learning?
Information for this article was compiled by Cynthia Leshin
from an interview with Billie Hughes, a Think Tank proposal,
a ICTE Panel, and a manual written by Edward L. Wallace on
multi-user simulated environments.
Maricopa Center for
Learning & Instruction (MCLI)
The Internet Connection at MCLI is
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