The Virtual Self: Identity, Culture, and Learning in Digital Worlds




Digital worlds may provide endless opportunities to explore our identities, as video games, social media, and virtual reality allow users to walk in the shoes of someone who is a different race, gender, or nationality and try on characteristics that differ from their selves in the real world. In education, these media can transport learners to far off places and times, to be with people not possible in real life. But learning in such an embodied experience, immersed in a context that can feel familiar or foreign, also highlights the importance of our identities. How will learners from different backgrounds make meaning of these digital environments? In what ways can immersive digital experiences help young people foster a positive identity, and how can it hinder learning by making them feel marginalized? In this course we will explore these questions, studying how virtual environments can be a powerful tool for learning, and drawing on sociocultural learning theories to understand how these experiences both shape and are shaped by cultural, gender, racial, and professional identities. Each week we will read and discuss theoretical and empirical papers related to learning, identity, and digital environments, engage in experiences in virtual worlds such as video games and VR, and write critical reflections. The course culminates in a final paper proposing a research study or educational experience design grounded in the course content. Permission of instructor required. Enrollment is limited to 20. This course is recommended for any student interested in immersive technologies, learning sciences, and identity development, and is open to students in all masters and doctoral programs. Enrollment procedure will be posted on the course website.


Additional Information

Faculty: Eileen McGivney
Semester: Fall 2
Time: Tues, Thurs, 9:00 - 10:15 a.m. ET