The Virtual Communities of Learning and Care project (VCLC), directed by Professor Marina Umaschi Bers of the Developmental Technologies (DevTech) research group at Tufts University, explores the potential of virtual environments to promote positive youth development by enabling users to become active creators of computational projects and participants in virtual communities. Funded by by a Career grant # IIS-0447166 by the National Science Foundation, we have designed virtual environments that can complement and augment face-to-face psychoeducational programs for children and teenagers in different settings such as hospitals, schools, and international after-school programs. For more information on these projects please check the corresponding links.
In the fall of 2007, we launched a project called "ClubZora" that was completed in early September 2008. ClubZora engaged youth at Computer Clubhouses around the world to participating in a virtual community where they were able to design a virtual city, write stories, create characters, chat with each other, and import advanced multimedia items by using the web-based Zora multi-user 3D graphical environment. Zora is explicitly designed to help young people explore issues of identity and cultural diversity, and to promote positive development through the use of technology. The two main goals of ClubZora were to provide a virtual space for Computer Clubhouse members around the world to build a strong community and to help youth from different cultures to learn about each other.
What is the potential role of virtual environments to foster positive youth development and to help youth develop cultural awareness and respect for cultural diversity?
Professor Marina Umaschi Bers from Tufts University and her Developmental Technologies research team are working to create technology-based interventions for youth to explore these issues by communicating and collaborating with youth from around the world.
The Zora virtual environment provides tools for youth to build and inhabit a graphical virtual city populated by their own objects, characters, and stories. Popular multimedia applications already at the Computer Clubhouses can be integrated into the Zora experience to create a highly customized virtual world.
With funding from the National Science Foundation, we are exploring how youth and mentors using Zora at after-school Computer Clubhouses around the world. In a nutshell, the project explores whether participating in a virtual community such as Zora can:
- Allow for a strong community of Computer Clubhouses around the world.
- Help youth from different cultures learn about each other and develop cultural awareness and respect for cultural diversity.
Overview of Club Zora Video
(Requires Apple Quicktime. Down load it here)
September, 2008: The ClubZora project has come to an end. Since November of 2007, we have enrolled over 570 citizens and participants have created almost 52,000 objects, recorded over 35,000 lines of chat, and logged in over 9800 times!
August, 2008: Laura Beals, coordinator of the ClubZora project, attended the Intel Computer Clubhouse Network's Teen Summit held at Northeastern University. She showcased ClubZora during the opening evening's Carnival!
March 14, 2008: We currently have over 400 enrolled users from 64 Clubhouses, representing 18 countries! Over 8600 objects have been created by users!
December 3, 2007: One month into ClubZora, we have over 250 enrolled users from 17 countries representing over 46 Clubhouses! Users have created over 3200 objects in Zora and have recorded over 11,000 lines of chat.
November 6, 2007: ClubZora launches at the Intel Computer Clubhouse Network! As of today we have over 50 users representing over 19 Clubhouses. To view a map of the ClubZora member locations, click here.
- Andrea Elba Andrade
- Christie Diaz
- Pablo Storch
- Stephanie Gold
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Designing Digital Experiences for Positive Youth Development: From Playpen to Playground, by Marina Umaschi Bers