3 d virtual worlds as art media and exhibition arenas


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3 d virtual worlds as art media and exhibition arenas

  1. 1. 232 Lu / 3D Virtual Worlds as Art Media and Exhibition Arenas 3D Virtual Worlds as Art Media and Exhibition Arenas: Students’ Responses and Challenges in Contemporary Art Education L I L L Y L U Northern Illinois University 3D virtual worlds (3DVWs) are considered one of the emerging learning spaces of the 21st century; however, few empirical studies have investigated educational applications and student learning aspects in art education. This study focused on students’ responses to and challenges with 3D VWs in both aspects. The findings show that most participants had positive learning experiences and attitudes toward 3D VWs as an art medium and an exhibition arena after overcoming a steep learning curve. They recognized that creating virtual art as well as viewing and critiquing it during art exhibits in a global virtual setting were great advantages for concept learning and art education. They also raised a concern about actual implementation in K-12 classrooms.The data shed light on how art educators and teachers can take advantage of the affordances of 3D VWs for teaching contemporary art in a digital age. Recommendations for future studies are provided. Correspondence regarding this article may be sent to the author at: lillylu26@gmail.com Copyright 2013 by the National Art Education Association Studies in Art Education: A Journal of Issues and Research 2013, 54(3), 232-245 “Virtual art/ virtual art spaces as new art medium/ art forms expand the concept and form of art.”
  2. 2. Studies in Art Education / Volume 54, No. 3 233 ​R ecently, popular online 3D multi- user virtual worlds (3D VWs) such as Club Penguin (for kids), There (for teens and adults), and Second Life (SL) (for teens1 and adults) have attracted different age groups/users, including researchers, educa- tors, and students. These networked virtual worlds provide 3D virtual spaces where a user, called an avatar (a visual representa- tion of a human being), can easily show his/ her presence while meeting and conversing with other users/avatars in remote locations synchronously or asynchronously. Users are required to have an updated computer with a high-speed Internet connection and to install a free browser after registering to become residents in the selected virtual environment. Combining the features of online gaming (desktop virtual reality) and social networking (social media), these popular 3D VW environ- ments are characterized by hyper-real visual imagery, unique immersive power, intensive interaction, and user-created content (Lu, 2008). Such 3D VWs are alternative online/dis- tance learning environments (Annetta, Murray, Laird, Bohr, & Park, 2008; Gaimster, 2008; Inman, Vivian, & Hartman, 2010) and emerg- ing 21st-century learning spaces for the digital generation (Smart, Cascio, & Paffendorf, 2007). However, many educators, including art educa- tors, lack knowledge and resources to apply the new capabilities in specific content areas using sound pedagogy (Annnetta, et al., 2008). Few empirical studies have thoroughly investigated the educational applications of such 3D VW environment or addressed student learning in the context of art education. These problems should be investigated and resolved to fill gaps in research and practice. The main purpose of this cross-cases study was to generate initial empirical data for art education by investigating (1) art education stu- dents’ responses to a 3D VW as an art medium and exhibit arena, (2) their perceived learning within 3D VWs, and (3) their willingness to adopt VWs in future art practice. In this article, I present the findings and make recommendations for future research and practice. 3D VW Literature in K-12 and Higher Education Reviewing 15 empirical studies, Hew and Cheung (2010) reported that educators in K-12 and higher education often utilized 3D VWs as spaces for communication, simulation, and experiential learning. They also found the main research interests were centered on students’ social interaction, affective domain (attitudes and satisfaction), and learning outcomes. Studies showed that using a personal avatar seemed to be a successful way for elementary, secondary, and undergraduate students to com- municate and interact with others (Dickey, 2005; Edirisingha, Nie, Pluciennik, & Young, 2009). Hew and his associates also reported that most students in these studies had positive satis- faction with and attitudes toward using 3D VWs during their learning process.This finding is con- sistent with two later reviews: one on 27 empiri- cal studies (Inman, et al., 2010) and one on 53 empirical studies (Mikropoulos & Natsis, 2011). Compared to the one-dimensional, text-driven digital learning spaces, students liked using such learning environments better because of the ability to move freely around the 3D VW space, to socialize with avatars, and to experi-
  3. 3. 234 Lu / 3D Virtual Worlds as Art Media and Exhibition Arenas ence virtual field trips and simulation situated in the learning content and context. Over half of the student participants from Campbell’s (2009) and Cobb, Heaney, Corcoran, and Henderson- Begg’s (2009) studies said they would use this or similar technologies in their future teaching. On the other hand, these reviews also reported some negatives about using 3D VWs for education due to perceived educational value, technical issues, steep learning curves, and inappropriate content and behaviors. Some students were unwilling to accept or adopt 3D VWs for education because they did not see its value as an educational tool (Lambert & Kidd, 2008) and did not take it seriously (FitzGibbon, Oldham, & Johnston, 2008). Additionally, tech- nical issues such as inability to access and run 3D VWs smoothly through older computers, frequent software updates, and slow download time often caused frustration and complaints (Hew & Cheung, 2010; Inman, et al., 2010), espe- cially for students who were impatient or not tech savvy. The steep learning curve is the main frustra- tion and barrier (Berge, 2008; Inman, 2010; Perez, 2009) for beginners, especially those who are not used to dealing with complex systems such as online video games or building tasks. In his study on gifted elementary students in 3D VWs, Gerstein (2009) found that frustration was due to misunderstanding the learning tasks, inability to find objects and locations, and/or technology problems. Sanchez (2009) identified interface and technical difficulties, world [how to play] expectations, and time consumption as compo- nents of the learning curve. Crosier (2000) found that less experienced users dealt with interface acquaintance and navigational problems while more experienced users were easily distracted by the virtual reality. Both problems significantly affected the users’attitude scores. FitzGibbon, et al. (2008) and Luo and Kemp (2008) concluded that the interface can be hard to master without frequent use and that learning how to build objects takes time and practice. Inappropriate content (pornography) and behaviors (cyber bullying/offering) annoyed users during their virtual“in-world”time (Hayes, 2006; Perez, 2009). A few studies found that student satisfac- tion scored higher than learnability (Goncalves, 2005; Cobb et. al., 2009) and that no real cog- nitive benefit was found (Minogue, Gail Jones, Broadwell, & Oppewall, 2006; Patera, Draper, & Naef, 2008). However, other study results showed that 3DVWs helped students learn (Hew & Chueng, 2010; Inman, et al., 2010; Mikropoulos & Natsis, 2011) and that the sense of presence, multisensory interaction, immersiveness, dynamic models, simulations, and visulization in 3D VWs were the factors that contributed to student learning (Dede, Salzman, Loftin, & Sprague, 1999; Mikropoulos & Natsis, 2011; Webb, 2005). Many empricial studies have examined stu- dents’ affective, social, and learning aspects in relation to the affordances of 3D VWs. Most of them were focused on using 3D VWs only as alternative online learning environments to simulate and expand learning experiences, facilitatate conversation, and encourage interac- tion. The potential and application of 3D VWs as a creation tool for students to build objects and generate content, especially visual content as the result of learning outcomes in-world, has not yet been investigated. Particularly, few empricial findings regarding students’ perceived learning, satisfaction, and attitudes toward the use of 3D VWs exist in the context of art education. Thus, empirical studies on 3D VWs as art medium and exhibit arenas in art education are needed to fill the gap between research and practice. In the next section, I review and discuss the current lit- erature on 3D VWs in art education and identfy the framework for this study. 3D VWs and Art Education The field of 3D VWs in art and art educa- tion is in its infancy. Early pioneer art educators addressed the potential and application of 3D
  4. 4. Studies in Art Education / Volume 54, No. 3 235 VWs. Some contemporary digital artists (Doyle, 2010; Willis, 2007), art educators (Liao, 2008; Lu, 2008, 2010;Taylor, Ballengee Morris, & Carpenter, 2010), and general 3D VW users/residents (Ward & Sonneborn, 2009) have experimented with 3D VW as new media for artistic expression in two ways. Identity creation through avatar custom- ization has received attention in the art world andinarteducation.Liao(2008)reportedseveral contemporary artists use SL avatars to address the western cannon of beauty, stereotype, and identity. Ward and Sonneborn (2009) stated that 3D VW residents may personalize their avatars and profiles as creative outlets for self-represen- tation. Students can interpret and reflect on the social, cultural, and metaphoric meaning of their avatar characters in art classrooms (Carpenter, 2009; Liao, 2008; Sweeny, 2009; Taylor, 2009). Lu (2010c) found that the anonymous iden- tity of avatars leads to more open, direct, and engaged art conversation among avatars. It can also easily deconstruct and eliminate power relationships and hierarchies that exist in edu- cational settings. Gaimster (2008) observed that students with anonymous identities critiqued each other’s work in a more honest and critical manner but noted that anonymity could result in bullying, grieving, and harassment. In addition to avatars, 3D VWs allow artist and resident users to create art with multimodal elements that may stand alone as well as blend into the 3D virtual spaces. With the built-in creation tools and “ready-to-use” scripts, users can create static, animated, and interactive art. Additionally, users can customize virtual art spaces and avatars’appearances to film a movie (machinima) as an alternative video art form. What makes such contemporary art different from other media art is its interactivity. Through their avatars, audiences can explore and inter- act with virtual art and within virtual spaces. Although virtual artists can design and program viewers’ possible experiences, audiences actu- ally take ownership of choosing, creating, and interpreting their unique virtual art experience (Lu, 2010c). I argue that the 3D VWs can offer contem- porary art and art education the potential for new challenges and for new creative, artistic, and educational possibilities through using 3D virtual spaces as a contemporary art medium, a virtual art learning environment, and an exhibi- tion arena (Lu, 2010b, 2010c). Virtual art/virtual art spaces as new art medium/art forms expand the concept and form of art. Virtual art can be interactive and animated with multimodal ele- ments that expand the ways viewers perceive visual cues, acquire information, and under- stand concepts. Audiences can play with the interactive work to interpret the concept and make meaning of their virtual art experience. For 3D VW artists, it is a new challenge to consider and design interactivity between avatars and their work as part of the virtual/visual experi- ence with/within the virtual art form/spaces. A 3DVW can serve not only as a creation play- ground but also as an exhibit and performance arena. 3D VWs can help global artists individu- ally or collaboratively create a piece of virtual art or an entire space and allow global audi- ences to attend the exhibit and participate in art events. A real-time art event can situate audi- ence avatars on the created stage/virtual space to view or interact/perform within the art per- formance. Thus, global accessibility can involve more art people in art activities and enhance cross-cultural engagement and interaction. 3D VWs as art learning environments allow instructors to provide a learning/cultural context and to design learning experiences, including creating learning objects or a learn- ing space, having virtual field trips to different art and cultural sites, and attending professional meetings, learning events, and educational conferences hosted in SL (Lu, 2011). Art educa- tors have argued that making and critiquing art helps students to think, interpret, understand, and create meaning critically to support con-
  5. 5. 236 Lu / 3D Virtual Worlds as Art Media and Exhibition Arenas ceptual learning (Efland, 2002; Freedman, 2003; Marshall & Vashe, 2008). As discussed previously, 3DVWs can serve as a contemporary art medium for students to create art with unique interac- tive and multi-modal features. 3D VWs can also offer great opportunities for students to learn new concepts and construct knowledge as they access art and have critical art conversations with people around the world in global settings. It is noted that empirical evidence to confirm these benefits for art learning is still needed. Lu (2011) developed an integrated model that combines Lu’s (2008) 3D VW characteristics (visualization, autonomy, interactivity, and inter- action) and Lim’s (2009)“Six Learnings of Second Life.” There are four learning stages and associ- ated activities in this model (Table 1) that focus on 3D VWs as an art medium, virtual art learn- ing environment, and exhibition arena. Students can expand their virtual experiences by creating visual content for their virtual art and co-creat- ing virtual art spaces with their own expression of complex concepts as well as by interacting with the global audiences during virtual art exhibit events. This model is comprehensive and relevant in art education contexts and, as a result, can serve as a conceptual framework for research and practice. Although the application of 3D VWs has been explored in art education, few empirical studies have been conducted. Therefore, an empiri- cal study that investigates how art education students responded to and perceived learning about affordances of 3D VWs is significant and timely in the digital age. Research Design The original study was aimed at generating empirical data to investigate art education stu- dents’initial responses to 3D VWs as a teaching/ learning environment, art medium, and exhibi- tion arena based on Lu’s (2010a) conceptual framework and teaching model. This article focuses on the latter two aspects. The three research questions were: • How do the students respond to a 3D VW as an art medium and exhibit arena in art education? • What is the art education students’perceived learning within 3D VWs? • Will they adopt 3D VWs in their future art practice? Course Descriptions I collected data for this study from four sec- tions of two technology courses focused on inte- grating emerging technologies in art education. One was designed for undergraduate and grad- uate students (two sections: one elective/one required). The second was a graduate seminar (two sections: both electives). The 8- to 10-week 3D VW sessions were held in a mix of both face-to-face and virtual meet- ings in the classroom along with at least two complete virtual meetings in remote locations. Students went through Lu’s (2008) 3D VW cur- riculum model and participated in the activities (See Table 1). The virtual environment in SL was Art Café2 where students met as cohort groups to attend/host events and work on their in- world projects. Participants and Procedure The participants in this study were 25 art education students (14 undergraduates and 11 graduate students, including 7 in-service art teachers) in an art education program at a Midwest university in 2008-2010. No students had prior knowledge or experience with SL. During these weeks, participants made tran- sitions from newbies to residents/builders/ creators/artists to event hosts. They explored the affordances of SL and its embedded digital visual culture individually or in a cohort group inside and outside of class time, discussed related issues, created artistic content (objects and virtual art spaces), and hosted art events at the Art Café in SL.
  6. 6. Studies in Art Education / Volume 54, No. 3 237 Research Methods and Data Analysis This study was a mixed-method research project using qualitative and quantitative methods to collect and analyze data from surveys, interviews, observations, transcripts of onlinediscussionsandconversations,snapshots, videos of events, and participant assignments such as presentation slides, learning journals, and project documentations. The focus group interviews were conducted after each learning stage.The data were analyzed with content anal- ysis, utilizing clustering and counting methods (Miles & Huberman, 1994). Multiple methods (Denzin & Lincoln, 2000) and peer examination were used to increase validity (Merriam, 1988). To enhance reliability, a research team, including graduate students, was formed to observe the SL events and in-class workshops and to analyze and triangulate the data. Findings and Discussions In this section I present a selection of findings extracted from the qualitative analysis. Findings regarding students’ responses and perceived learning for the first two research questions will be presented and discussed in two sections: 3D VWs “as an art medium” and “as a creation and exhibition arena.” The findings for the third ques- tion are presented in“educational application.” As an Art Medium Using 3D VWs as an art medium was a very new experience for all of the participants. They “created”virtual art from 3D perspectives within Table 1. Lu’s integrated teaching model for 3D VWs (2011).
  7. 7. 238 Lu / 3D Virtual Worlds as Art Media and Exhibition Arenas the 3D VWs through onscreen avatars, which is different from work created in real life and imported as a digital copy into 3D VWs. All students at the builder stage experienced a similar learning curve, specifically interface difficulty and time-consumption, as FitzGiboon, et al. (2008), Luo and Kemp (2008), and Sanchez (2009) identified. In the beginning, participants found it challenging to learn how to create and manipulate a 3D object with the SL inter- face. They practiced, troubleshot, and asked for help to overcome the steep learning curve. They then could freely create and manipulate objects’ shapes from raw shapes into interest- ing/creative forms as they wished. Participants (28.1%) reported mixed feelings such as “diffi- cult but interesting”; “both fun and very incred- ibly frustrating”; and “a little frustrating and then… hugely addicting.” Participants (18.8%) changed their attitudes from negative to mixed feelings and from mixed to positive feelings. For example, KB (2010S B10) said: My building experience in SL has been frustrating, rewarding, annoying, and wonderful in turns. The days when hours of not-frustrating building occur are being to outnumber the frustrating days, which is a pleasant relief… I really think one of my most difficult challenges building is actually one of the things that I enjoy the most: the detail-orientedness that causes me to spend hours trying to line objects up exactly. (Bold added for emphasis.) At the end of the courses, 9.3% of the partici- pants still felt the building skills were difficult/ frustrating to learn or felt inadequate about being able to execute them technically, but at the end of the courses, 90.6% also considered the building experiences enjoyable. Such atti- tude change in perceived learning in the affec- tive domain is consistent with Sanchez’s (2009) findings. What caused participants’ frustrations were insufficient 3D VW experiences in the past, dif- ficulty lining up and applying scripts, and chal- lenges in conceptualizing ideas and applying building knowledge/skills to create interactive components. They felt it was hard to think from 3D VW perspectives and work on a computer screen. The most difficult and frustrating part was the conceptualization through the 3D VW form with interactivity. Some reflected that they actually learned better concepts by think- ing how to represent their ideas on a 3D art form with multimedia and interactivity capa- bilities to communicate ideas with audiences in VWs. Other participants commented that 3D VWs are a place to prototype concepts and ideas because they can view and modify the work immediately without taking the wait time for rendering as with other 3D modeling pro- grams. This is particularly useful for beginners who start working on 3D art in an either physi- cal or digital form. As a Creation and Exhibit Arena The virtual worlds can serve not only as a creation ground but also as an exhibit arena. Viewers can speculate on the idea through their interactive and multimodal experiences with a virtual art piece or space and formulate learned concepts as their individual new knowledge construction (Lu & Jeng, 2006). For example, when visiting a Holocaust site, one student explained how visitors could perceive and understand the concepts through their immer- sive experience: It offers historical first hand accounts of the atrocities encountered by the victims of the holocaust. It delivers them in a way that uses total audience immersion. As the viewer, you experience a city scene set in Nazi occupied Poland and control the visual content by clicking on the many interactive cues… it allows you to role-play a similar virtual experience of people at this time… students [visitors] become more motivated to explore the surroundings because the visual look and sounds add to the overall historical aesthetics and the dozens of
  8. 8. Studies in Art Education / Volume 54, No. 3 239 images, texts, and audio clues provides multimodal instruction of aesthetics and leave the learner fully engaged in the context. (2010SP F22ME) (Bold added for emphasis.) After creating at least two individual virtual art pieces and building a group virtual art space, the participants hosted events to showcase their work (Figures 1-4). All participants seemed to enjoy such a unique and interesting experience. As young SL artists, they were excited, and some were nervous at the beginning because they knew that the audiences might be outside of campus or even in other countries.They appreciated the opportu- nity to see how the audience reacted to and inter- acted with their work and whether the audience understood the concepts.They were also pleased to receive the feedback and critiques from the Figure 2. Students and guests watched machinimas at the Student exhibit in Fall 2010. Figure 1. Student exhibit in Fall 2010.
  9. 9. 240 Lu / 3D Virtual Worlds as Art Media and Exhibition Arenas Top: Figure 3. Students (two Mermaids in the middle) hosted the event in their recreated virtual art spaces (The Atlantis Project, 2009). Bottom: Figure 4. Guests navigated a virtual art space recreated by students in their Introduction to Cryptozoology project, 2010. viewers. Many participants rated their event hosting as their favorite part of virtual experience in SL, such as HK (2010F E6) who noted that,“I felt like the exhibit was the best part of second life. It gave us a chance to show our work and to appre- ciate it because we all have experienced what it’s like to build on second life.” As SL audiences, the participants really enjoyed walking around and exploring other pieces as well as talking about their work with artists. Two participants commented: I was able to share my opinions and feedback with the artists and ask questions about their work. I feel like this is one of the areas in which SL shines. (2010F E7 MT) One thing that I really enjoyed about the event was that our avatars could walk on, fly around, or even lounge in the pieces—which is something that we couldn’t do in real life. I think that these alternative forms of interaction with art and learning objects are the greatest benefits of Second Life art creation. (2010S E7 KB) (Bold added for emphasis.) Data showed that what made the virtual art exhibition/event the favorite part was probably the presence of audiences/avatars. The display of their virtual art, the observation of how audi- ences reacted to and interacted with their work, and conversations with audience members vali- dated the time, effort, and hard work the par- ticipants spent. Such rewarding recognition and experiences led to changes in some participants’ perceptions of their building experiences. After the events and seeing audiences interact with their work, some students who were previously frustrated and challenged by the building and scripting felt rewarded and unafraid of building: [After the group event,] I became more confident in my building skills… I have to admit that after completing the massive building project and conceptual space that led to the event opening, I really began to enjoy building in Second Life. (2010S E12 JB) (Bold added for emphasis.)
  10. 10. Studies in Art Education / Volume 54, No. 3 241 The 3D VW platform made the real-time exhibit in a global setting. Audiences with dif- ferent cultural backgrounds provided different perspectives for appreciating and critiquing students’ virtual art. A couple of participants envisioned that the ability of SL to bring people in remote locations or from around the world together to attend a real-time virtual art event could be implemented in classrooms. These activities expanded the audiences and allowed students to exhibit their art and receive critiques and feedback. Some students also noticed the interpersonal conversation differences between the real world and virtual worlds. This 3D VW medium seems to enable users to remove their social masks and talk freely and honestly with their pseudo avatars. This finding is consistent with two previous studies that focused on art critique activities in 3D VWs (Gaimster, 2008; Lu, 2010c). A participant commented: In a real life situation, when showing work, I often become nervous and have the distinct feeling of being exposed. During this virtual art exhibit event I welcomed visitors to my works and fielded any questions they had. I feel that my avatar is a faceless shell in which some social awkwardness can be removed, allowing true expressions to be heard…when showing my works, I feel more comfortable using the guise of my avatar. In a way, the anonymous nature allows the viewer and the artist to be more critical. (2010S E15 ME, emphasis added) The audience with an anonymous iden- tity does not seem to be a barrier or concern. Actually, the embodied anonymity resulted in more open and honest discussion in 3D VWs than in the real classrooms because there were no real world identification and power hier- archies during social interaction (Lu, 2010c). Students could receive honest feedback and critical critiques without feeling embarrassed in the virtual setting. The art exhibit event in the 3D VW seemed to be a positive learning experience for the par- ticipants because of the social interaction factor, which is consistent with the 3D VW literature noted above. When viewing each virtual art piece, participants needed to critically think, interpret, and understand the embedded con- cepts by interacting with the art piece before participating in the art critique/conversation. All artists and audiences around the world were socially engaged in the virtual art conversation by discussing and commenting on the concepts, ideas, and meanings behind the work from their cultural perspectives. At the same time, they were not only weaving together the collective new knowledge as a group, but they also were constructing their personal knowledge (Lu & Jeng, 2006) based on the art dialogue and their virtual art experience. It seems that hosting and attending art exhibits, interacting with global audiences, and having anonymous identity are the effective virtual pedagogy found in this cross-cases study. Thus, 3D VWs provide unique ways for making, viewing, and critiquing art in VW that can contribute to conceptual learning in art education. Educational Application Although most participants saw the affor- dances and potential of 3D VWs in the art classrooms, participants in different groups had slightly different preferences in terms of VW adoption in practice. Some preservice art teachers (undergraduate and graduate stu- dents) wondered how much time they should spend on VWs along with other art media in the art classroom; others wanted to teach art with 3D VWs to engage the digital generation. One undergraduate preservice art teacher commented: I am well versed within Second Life; I feel now that I will be able to teach these skills to students in the near future… we have entered the digital age, and we will continue to travel through the digital
  11. 11. 242 Lu / 3D Virtual Worlds as Art Media and Exhibition Arenas age; it only seems appropriate that we as teachers can help guide our students down that road. After taking this class I feel like I will be a suitable guide. (2010F E5 GP) Some in-service art teachers addressed their concerns and the difficulties of the actual application in schools. Consistent with findings in previous studies (Goncalves, 2005; Hayes, 2006), the major concerns were lack of face-to- face interaction, inappropriate adult content, and cyberbullying. One in-service art teacher responded: Do nothing in extreme manners; virtual environments create a new kind of human interaction, just because it isn’t eye to eye doesn’t mean it isn’t human interaction… the most important thing we could teach would be how to be critical of these environments and how we can critique them in terms of a comparison to real life. I think this VW [platform] could benefit students greatly! (2008SU 4GER, emphasis added) In the context of learning and teaching, certain affordances such as easy access, auton- omy, and virtual identity creation of the 3D VW can become problematic as inappropriate content and misbehaviors. One way to work around these issues, to maximize the 3D VW affordances, and to minimize the issues as much as possible is to adopt the OpenSim approach. For example, working with K-12 schools in cloned Second Life virtual worlds hosted on a private server allow only the authorized school teachers and students access. Students can still take advantage of all the affordances except for virtual field trips and socializing with anony- mous global users who are not granted access to the OpenSim server. When participants were asked whether or not they would adopt SL or similar 3D VWs if access to inappropriate content and encoun- ters with misbehaving adults were not an issue or if using a similar 3D VW platform in a closed environment such as OpenSim, over two thirds of the participants reported they would use 3D VWs in the future. Their reactions were consis- tent with other general education preservice and in-serivce teachers in previous studies (Campbell, 2009; Goncalves, 2005). Conclusion and Recommendations For contemporary art education, 3D VWs such as Second Life seem to offer a complex combination of educational, art, exhibition, and social media. This study sought to gener- ate empirical data by investigating art educa- tion students’ responses to 3D VWs after they gained solid first-hand experiences as newbies, residents, artists, and event hosts. The main findings follow. First, although participants moved through learning stages and experi- enced frustration as part of the learning curve, most overcame the challenges and had posi- tive experiences, perceived learning, and devel- oped positive attitudes toward 3D VWs as an art medium and exhibition arena. Second, they recognized the potential and affordances of 3D VWs for art education practice. These virtual learning experiences, including conversing with art people/avatars, creating and appreciating contemporary virtual art, and critiquing and exhibiting art in a global virtual setting, greatly contributed to their concept learning. Next, participants were concerned about the actual application of 3D VWs in the K-12 classroom setting since schools block similar free virtual worlds because of inappropriate adult content and behavior. Last, hosting art exhibit events to showcase work and to receive critiques and feedback from global audiences was the most unique and greatest part of participants’ 3D VW experiences. These findings shed light on how instructors can develop strategies to minimize barriers and enhance students’VW building and exhibit experiences in 3D VWs. This cross-case study was focused on 25 art education students’ 3D VW learning journey. This study was limited to a small population and also to their 3D VW experiences during the
  12. 12. Studies in Art Education / Volume 54, No. 3 243 courses. The first recommendation for future studies is to investigate more art education stu- dents’ virtual world creation and exhibit experi- ences in terms of different users’ characteristics, such as gamers vs. non-gamers, tech-savvy vs. non-tech-savvy persons, 3D persons vs. non-3D persons, or digital student artists vs. non-digital student artists. The second recommendation is to examine how previous art and computer experience (self-efficacy, attitude, and anxiety) are associated with or affect ways of dealing with the steep learning curve and challenges in 3D VWs. The last recommendation is to docu- ment best practices regarding how to use 3D VWs to teach virtual art and visual culture in the context of contemporary art practice and digital visual culture. The findings and issues that emerged from this study confirm the educational ben- efits of 3D VWs with art education students and revealed barriers in practice. The emerging 3D VWs are becoming not only new learning spaces but also new art creation and exhibition spaces for a digital generation who have grown up with avatars and virtual environments (Gaimster, 2008). One participant stated his vision of SL for the future of art and his appreciation of the opportunity to learn its potential: I love the fact that Second Life offers a uniquely creative environment that seems to be focused on art and innovation… Second Life has endless potential both as a display medium as well as a network of artists and designers whose collaboration and sharing of skill sets could really push the digital arts forward much faster than without such a medium. I am in the belief that the [3D virtual world] technology that is emerging currently will shape the environment [in which] we work and create art in the future. I feel thankful to be at least aware of these technologies and to understand their potential. (2010F E7 MT, emphasis added) It is the art educators’and teachers’responsi- bility and challenge to educate students within the new virtual art spaces in which they can experience and learn about digital visual culture and future art in 21st century art education. Also needed are (1) more empirical studies to show how the characteristics and features of 3D VWs can be pedagogically and creatively utilized in contemporary art education curriculum and (2) an accumulation of excellent virtual art exam- ples in 3D VWs that can serve as an aesthetic challenge for students. R E F E R E N C E S Annetta, L., Murray, M., Laird, S. G., Bohr, S., & Park, J. (2008). Investigating student attitudes toward a synchro- nous, online graduate course in a multi-user virtual learning environment. Journal of Technology and Teacher Education, 16(1), 5-34. Berge, Z. L. (2008). Multi-user virtual environments for education and training? A critical review of Second Life. Educational Technology, 48(3), 27-31. Campbell, C. (2009) Learning in a different life: Pre-service education students using an online virtual world. Journal of Virtual Worlds Research, 2(1), 4-17. Carpenter, B. S. (2009). Virtual worlds as educational experience: Living and learning in interesting times. Journal of Virtual Worlds Research, 2(1). Cobb, S., Heaney, R., Corcoran, O., & Henderson-Begg, S. (2009). The learning gains and student perceptions of a Second Life Virtual Lab. Bioscience Education, 13. Crosier, J. K., Cobb, S. V. G., & Wilson, J. R. (2000). Experimental comparison of virtual reality with traditional teaching methods for teaching radioactivity. Education and Information Technologies, 5(4), 329-343.
  13. 13. 244 Lu / 3D Virtual Worlds as Art Media and Exhibition Arenas Dede, C., Salzman, M. C., Loftin, R. B., & Sprague, D. (1999). Multisensory immersion as a modeling environment for learning complex scientific concepts. In W. Feurzeig & N. Roberts (Eds.), Computer modeling and simulation in science education (pp. 282–319). New York, NY: Springer-Verlag. Denzin, N. K., & Lincoln, Y. S. (Eds.). (2000). Handbook of qualitative research (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Dickey, M. D. (2005). Three-dimensional virtual worlds and distance learning: Two case studies of active worlds as a medium for distance education. British Journal of Educational Technology, 36(3), 439-451. Doyle, D. (2010). Immersed in learning: Supporting creative practice in virtual worlds. Learning, Media and Technology, 35(2), 99-110. Edirisingha, P., Nie, M., Pluciennik, M., Young, R. (2009). Socialisation for learning at a distance in a 3-D multi-user virtual environment. British Journal of Educational Technology, 40(3), 458-479. Efland, A. (2002). Art and cognition. New York, NY: Teachers College. FitzGibbon, A., Oldham, E., & Johnston, K. (2008). Are Irish student-teachers prepared to be agents of change in using IT in education?. In K. McFerrin, R. Weber, R. Carlsen & D. Willis (Eds.), Proceedings of Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education International Conference 2008 (pp. 1397-1404). Chesapeake, VA: AACE. Freedman, K. (2003). The importance of student artistic production in teaching visual culture. Art Education, 56(2) 38-42. Gaimster, J. (2008). Reflections on interactions in virtual worlds and their implication for learning art and design. Art, Design & Communication in Higher Education, 6(3), 187-199. Gerstein, J. (2009). Beyond the game: Quest Atlantis as an online learning experience for gifted elementary students. Journal of Virtual Worlds Research, 2(1), 4-18. Goncalves, N. (2005). Educational use of 3d virtual environments: Primary teachers visiting a Romanesque castle. In A. Mendez-Vilas, B. G. Pereira, J. M. Gonzalez & J. A. M. Gonzalez (Eds.), Recent research developments in learning technologies (pp. 427-431). Badajoz, Spain: FORMATEX. Hayes, E. (2006). Situated learning in virtual worlds: The learning ecology of Second Life. Proceedings of the Adult Education Research Conference 2006. Retrieved from www.adulterc.org/Proceedings/2006/Proceedings/ Hayes.pdf Hew, K. F., & Cheung, W. S. (2010). Use of three-dimensional (3-D) immersive virtual worlds in K-12 and higher education settings: A review of the research. British Journal of Educational Technology, 41(1), 33-55. Inman, C. W., Vivian H., & Hartman, J. A. (2010). Use of Second Life in K-12 and higher education: A review of research. Journal of Interactive Online Learning, 9(1), 44-63. Lambert, J., & Kidd, L. (2008). The potential and limitations of teaching and learning in an e-learning 2.0 environ- ment from a cognitive load perspective. In Proceedings of World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia and Telecommunications 2008 (pp. 6003-6008). Chesapeake, VA: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education. Laio, C. (2008). Avatars, Second Life, and new media art: The challenge for contemporary art education. Art Education, 61(3), 87-91. Lim, K. (2009). The six learnings of Second Life: A framework for designing curricular interventions in-world. Journal of Virtual Worlds Research, 2(1). Lu, L. F. (2008). Art café: A 3d virtual learning environment for art education. Art Education, 61(6), 48-53. Lu, L. F. (2010a). Teaching 21st century art education in a virtual age: Art Café @ Second Life. Art Education, 63(6), 19-24. Lu, L. F. (2010b) Art education avatars in action: Learning, teaching, and assessing in 3d virtual art learning environments. In L. Annetta & S. Bronack (Eds.), Serious educational game assessment: Practical methods and models for educational games, simulations and virtual worlds (pp. 201-220). New York, NY: Sense. Lu, L. F. (2010c) Demystifying three-dimensional virtual worlds for art education. Journal of International Society for Education through Art, 6(3), 279-291. Lu, L. F. (2011). Art education avatars in action: Preparing art teachers for learning and teaching in a virtual age. Journal of Technology and Teacher Education, 19(3), 287-301.
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  15. 15. Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.