Since I have never been one to miss a chance to point out the obvious, I will begin this blog about uses that I have discovered for MUDs, MUSHs, and MOOs by saying that these operations are primarily text-based and could be used by language teachers to teach writing and communication skills. Not only that, once in the particular domains, students will be free to discover whatever they can about the subject under investigation.
One use of a MUD that I read about involved a project where students were studying Dante’s Inferno and built the circles of hell into their discussion and writings. This type of activity could be repeated with other pieces of literature.
For foreign language teachers there is the possibility of connecting students with others from all over the world, which I think is fascinating. The problem for me and a few other teachers that I know is that we need first to learn the computing language in order to create domains. One article that I read indicated that teachers should completely familiarize themselves with MOOs before using one in class. (I have a feeling that some students could be especially helpful to this old teacher in this project.) This makes sense, though, so that teachers can have a modicum of control and, also, so that they will be able to relate first-hand to their students.
Another interesting point that I encountered is the prospect that some teachers may be uncomfortable teaching with MOOs / MUDs / MUSHs because they are not doing all of the teaching. Students are learning from others within the online environment. This seems like a win-win to me because students could bring information to the class that teachers don’t know.
While researching the topic, I found some MOOs that were already set up complete with a page of web commands for entrance and participation. Of particular interest to me was MundoHispano where students could communicate with Spanish-speaking students and participate in activities such as touring parts of the Spain, gathering information and writing reports for the class, searching for colloquialisms of the language, learning lots of vocabulary, building rooms in response to in-class reading activities, and even holding a party online where students can invite other friends not associated with the class. The possibilities for using MOOs in the teaching of foreign language are nearly endless. Plus, students receive authentic exposure to native speakers which is an experience no textbook can duplicate. Another plus for this type of learning seems to arise from the fact that if students like learning this way and build relationships with the people they meet, they will have a personal and intrinsic reason for returning to the site, which enhances learning.
Another site that I visited suggested that teachers should help students decide on topics of discussion before accessing the MOO. The information collected should be reported to the class and for authentication purposes include information about who taught what to them and the websites visited.
MUSHs and MUDs could be used by social studies teachers to teach about political issues that have led to wars. For example, students could be assigned or choose roles such as world leaders, generals, captains, soldiers, and others during WWI and WWII. Rooms could be created that represent different countries and students could interact in these environments to recreate stages of the wars or they could discuss how things would have been different if this or that event had or had not happened and how the world might be different now. This type of lesson could take students many different places.
Without a doubt, I am leaving out other uses for MUDs, MOOs, and MUSHs. However, with a little imagination, I think that nearly every subject could take take advantage of these learning / teaching tools.