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Games and Learning

Ross Priory, Scotland.
Maggi Savin-Baden and Christine Sinclair (as well as their Second Life avatars Christine Sanders and Second Wind) are the last presenters at ICE 3 for today (full paper here). Both are students in the MSc in e-learning at the University of Edinburgh, which in part focusses on the use of digital game-based learning environments. They begin by describing their journeys into this degree, which were motivated for them as academic professionals in part by an interest in learning about what it means to be a student in the present university environment, and an interest in exploring possibilities for e-learning which were not covered by WebCT and other standard solutions.

Their responses to Second Life are diverse, and range from a certain wariness about the environment to a fascination with the possibilities available within it. Both also blogged about these experiences, and interpreted one anothers blogs. Especially, there were questions of positioning and power to be considered: where and how does embodiment take place in Second Life (they emphasis that embodiment does take place), and how are partipants positioned by the game or position themselves within it - ultimately, what is the digital identity which emerges in the process?

Beyond this, pedagogies also tend to order and position students, and create certain problematic power relations, of course. Certain teacher and learner identities are created and displayed in the process; these may be rather different in online and offline spaces, too. Catalysts for the encounter of such problems in these liminal spaces included technological features, pedagogical approaches, social conventions of environments like Second Life, and the potential for interactions to occasionally spin out of control altogether.

Some other observations included the divergent tendencies towards avoiding Second Life and other game spaces altogether, or conversely overengaging in it; other responses were to resist it or to persist with it, and to use games as a liminal activity outside of 'legitimate' forms of engagement. Some games were entrancing places, while others became entrances to places; from their own experiences, Christine and Maggi describe all of these forms of participation as lurking behaviours, however - but this is a kind of lurking around new thresholds.

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