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Appears in:
Pages: 2807-2816
Publication year: 2012
ISBN: 978-84-615-5563-5
ISSN: 2340-1079

Conference name: 6th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 5-7 March, 2012
Location: Valencia, Spain

WHERE ARE THE HIGH-TECH WOMEN? FINDINGS FROM AN EDUCATIONAL STUDY OF A VIRTUAL WORLD

S. Aurilio

San Diego State University (UNITED STATES)
Findings from a study of recreational learning in a 3D virtual world support the claim that women, as creators and inhabitants of these technological systems, are “high tech.” I define high-tech as follows. As avid users and world-builders of one system, Second Life, they create and manipulate 3D spaces and objects. They program object animations using a scripting language, and create and edit graphics, video and audio. They also configure permissions and administer the usage of landmasses and parcels. Finally, they deal with hardware, software and network traffic issues as part and parcel of embodying avatars, and creating and interacting with online 3D space.
Data is drawn from a virtual ethnography [1], using semi-structured and unstructured interviews, observations, journal entries, and gathered artifacts. I took as evidence of learning, participants’ descriptions of how they learned [2] to answer the research question, “How do residents learn to create Second Life?” Formal data collection took six months and focused on seven people, six of whom were women, ages 33 to mid-50s. I observed and interviewed 20 more people; approximately half were women.
I also draw on data from two university-based research and development projects, as well as from a literature review of virtual environments. Data from the first project were drawn from a survey of faculty, administrators and instructional designers following an introductory workshop to Second Life. Data were also drawn from an evaluation of assessment instruments, and from informal observations and interviews with faculty and instructional designers using Second Life. Data from the second project were drawn from semi-structured interviews with students and faculty using the platform for 3D design projects. Finally, I use personal experiences [3] from three perspectives—myself as learner, instructional designer, and administrator. Introduced to Second Life in 2005, I have participated in numerous virtual-world symposia, as well as investigated other systems such as Activeworlds, OpenSim, Project Wonderland and Teleplace.
Implications for education are as follows. First, the process of learning high-tech skills through world-building, benefits from self-directed and personally meaningful activities. Deep learning [4] is associated with such activities as well. Further, in institutional contexts, the same types of activities are used in high impact educational practices [5]. These practices may provide frameworks for legitimizing world-building in academic contexts.
Second, the women in this study learned through creating expressive forms embedded in socially-significant milieus. In other words, being creative as 1) a result of others, 2) with others, and 3) in service to others were conditions for learning. These conditions echo women’s orientations to learning on the whole [6] and suggest that replicating them in formal and informal educational settings may benefit science and technology education.
Finally, online recreational learning is important for lifelong learning. As a group, women are primary caregivers and caretakers of the family and household. As such, they are tied to the home. Recreational environments could be exploited for personal and professional growth. More research is needed however to develop models in which the competencies acquired are made relevant to the academy’s educational goals and industry’s business goals.
@InProceedings{AURILIO2012WHE,
author = {Aurilio, S.},
title = {WHERE ARE THE HIGH-TECH WOMEN? FINDINGS FROM AN EDUCATIONAL STUDY OF A VIRTUAL WORLD},
series = {6th International Technology, Education and Development Conference},
booktitle = {INTED2012 Proceedings},
isbn = {978-84-615-5563-5},
issn = {2340-1079},
publisher = {IATED},
location = {Valencia, Spain},
month = {5-7 March, 2012},
year = {2012},
pages = {2807-2816}}
TY - CONF
AU - S. Aurilio
TI - WHERE ARE THE HIGH-TECH WOMEN? FINDINGS FROM AN EDUCATIONAL STUDY OF A VIRTUAL WORLD
SN - 978-84-615-5563-5/2340-1079
PY - 2012
Y1 - 5-7 March, 2012
CI - Valencia, Spain
JO - 6th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
JA - INTED2012 Proceedings
SP - 2807
EP - 2816
ER -
S. Aurilio (2012) WHERE ARE THE HIGH-TECH WOMEN? FINDINGS FROM AN EDUCATIONAL STUDY OF A VIRTUAL WORLD, INTED2012 Proceedings, pp. 2807-2816.
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