Archive for Whyville

Research and academic papers on Whyville

Funded by the National Science Foundation, UCLA researcher Yasmin Kafai and her team study many different aspects of Whyville including science learning, avatar creation and virtual identity, the role of cheating, and flirting and dating through Whyville. Read More

Academic papers (all pdfs can be found under the blog post Community Dynamic Reports) –

1. Your Second Selves: Avatar Designs and Identity Play in a Teen Virtual World
This paper addresses the “role of avatars in identity play and self-representation as well as the social issues that arise within the game world.”

Key ideas:
> Avatars are a form of self-representation in the online world.
> Avatar design is guided by 1) Resources i.e. tools available to create the avatar 2) Individual agency i.e. personal motivations and reasons behind avatars being made to look a certain way 3) Social constraints i.e. what the community deems as acceptable or not acceptable.

2. Synthetic Play: Girls and Boys Gaming Together and Apart in Teen Virtual Worlds
This paper brings out the idea that “gaming experiences could not only create a synthesis between the online and offline world but also bridge the gap between girls and boys who are often seen at playing apart and not together in the gaming world.”

This study was conducted by setting up an after-school Whyville club consisting of 10 boys and 10 girls.

Key ideas:
> A hybrid form of social interaction arises in the space where the online world meets the offline world.
> Gaming bridges the gap between boys and girls.


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Learning about loans in Whyville

President of Numedeon (Whyville’s parent company), Dr Jen Sun commented:
“Whyville Scion Solutions is a perfect example of motivated, engaged learning. The Scions are a huge hit with our kids. They want cars! But most citizens just don’t have
enough clams. We’ve set up the motivation for them to learn what it means to take out a loan. They’ll learn about interest rates, down payment, credit history, and, perhaps most important of all, being responsible. If you default on your loan, you’ll lose your car, and your credit history will be ruined so that you can’t take out another loan. Educators and researchers know that students learn best when they really care about the topic. That’s exactly what we try to do in Whyville.” Read More

The process works by visiting the Scion Solutions Office and meeting Eric, the loan officer. Eric then explains the loan process to interested Whyvillians. Read More

Relevant blog post – Real Car, Virtual Car – Same ANNOYANCE!

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Testimonials for Whyville

This page contains a few testimonials from parents, teachers and kids saying what they like about Whyville and why they like being there.

Key points extracted from the above link –

Making friends
Meeting kids from around the world
Fun learning experience
Lots to do
Safe place
Love the games
Education and fun

Safe and fun chat room
Education has been more valuable than the formal public school education
Safe environment for kids to chat in

Generate interest in science among girls
Science learning has become fun
Inquiry based educational environment
Contains the kinds of interaction kids seek while learning and having fun

In 2006, Whyville received iParenting’s award as the best Web site for kids and best on the Web for its safety features. Read the article – Why is Whyville a hit? It’s safe, fun – by Linda Knapp to know more about what makes Whyville safer than other online communities, which organizations are funding projects in Whyville, what kinds of activities members are involved in and why a growing number of educators are supporting this style of learning.

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Exploring Whyville

Welcome Lounge
This is the first place to go to in Whyville, there are lots of newbies here and people with red caps to give you a tour. There is also a short slideshow that introduces Whyville.

Clams are Whyville money. By playing educational games, you earn clams, which can then be used to purchase things like face parts etc. from the bazaar. Read more.

Hopping on the bus (left side of the page), will take you to any destination that you want. On the top of the bus is a red satchel containing your bank statement. salary ledger, bonus ledger and various other things to help you keep track of stuff. The bus also displays information about the current population of Whyville.

Chat License Test
Chat in Whyville is moderated, therefore one has to pass a chat license test to be able to participate in chat rooms. I thought this is a great way to teach kids about playing safely in Whyville and also educating them on general internet safety rules. Further incentive is that you get 50 bonus clams once you pass the test. Read more on how to chat and Whyville crime watch.

Some destinations I visited:
Illusions house
This destination contains two rooms – house of illusions gallery and geek speak. At the house of illusions you can explore various famous illusions. There is a 3D gallery and a 2D gallery. Geek speak is the room for finding answers about the illusions and having discussions around this topic.

This destination contains three rooms – vaccine lab, pharmacy and virus lab. At the vaccine lab, you can create your own vaccine, manage your existing vaccines and learn more about the process of designing and manufacturing vaccines. At the pharmacy, you can learn about the viruses going around in Whyville and accordingly purchase a vaccine or get medication for symptomatic relief. At the virus lab, you can learn about how viruses work in real life through a slide show and play a game to learn about the viruses in Whyville and their antibodies. You can also create your own virus – this has different levels of challenges. There are also links to the Climate center and Bankinter from here. This is a great sim to learn about the different aspects of the medical industry and more specifically about viruses and vaccines.

Bankinter is the Whyville bank where you can see your account summary and manage your clams i.e. you can create a savings account and transfer funds between your checking and savings account. You also have the option to open certificates of deposit to make your money work harder for you. At the Bankinter lounge, you can read the faq’s. This is a great sim for teens to begin to learn the basics of finance. Related blog post – Bankinter heads over to Whyville

Nutrition center
Whyville, the leading educational virtual world for kids on the Internet, has teamed up with the School Nutrition Association (SNA) to promote healthy school meals. The WhyEat program allows Whyville citizens to plan and eat virtual meals and snacks. If a character makes healthy choices, it is rewarded with a healthy appearance. But users will find that a poor diet results in health consequences, and characters could feature unsightly scurvy sores (due to a lack of vitamin C) bloodshot eyes (due to too much caffeine) or broken bones (from insufficient calcium). Related article – Virtual World 125,000 Kids Fight Obesity in Whyville

At the bazaar you can purchase things such as a new face part, furniture for your house or visit the emporium for various housing needs. You can also swap face parts at the trading post.

Spin center
At this destination you learn everything about spinning – ask questions about spinning, play games and simulations on spinning, and even win prizes that have to do with spinning. In the skating game, you adjust a skaters stance i.e. position of arms and legs to see how that affects the speed of spinning. A high scorer makes it to the hall of brains. You can also visit geek speak for further discussion on this topic and to read geek notes on spinning.

As of now there are almost 90 destinations in Whyville. So lots more places to visit and learn from.

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First time in Whyville

  • It was extremely easy to register and create a basic avatar in Whyville.
  • I loved that i can access the world through a browser and did not have to download an application to access it. Whyville works on Java enabled browsers on Macs and PCs.
  • Chatting was so simple and intuitive – just click and type.
  • I did not really like that my avatar had only half a body. Was a bit creepy to see a half body floating around in the world. It would be great to have a full body.
  • To move around you have to click on a location and the avatar will move to it. I would have preferred using my arrow keys to move around but since it is a 2D world, this form of movement works fine too.
  • I really enjoyed exploring Whyville Times, the towns newspaper written by the citizens of Whyville.
  • Exploring the website – This guided tour, available on the teachers section highlighted all the fabulous features in Whyville. I got to know that registering as a teacher in Whyville allows me to bring my students on and manage their accounts. The parents section gave me some examples of projects. The information presented on this page was able to instill the confidence I would need as a parent to allow my kids to be in this world. The about section sums up the Whyville world.

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Whyville is an educational virtual world for children and teens, ages 10-16. Originally established to support an LA Times weekly science education article, this world’s motto is “learning by doing.” True to its word, Whyville actively engages its visitors and encourages them to participate in fun, educational events that give kids “hands-on” experience with science projects (in a virtual way, of course).

While Whyville is partially moderated with a language filter and a staff of “city workers,” the chat is not monitored 24/7 and it is recommended that parents monitor their child’s activity and review Whyville’s online safety procedures and recommendations before chatting.

According to the “Whyville Times” newspaper on the site, this world was averaging 22,000 visitors a day in August 2003. Visitors can log on as a guest or register for free. During busy times you may have to wait in a “waiting room” unless you purchase a “Whyville Pass” that gives you priority access. More

Other details –
Company: Numedeon, Inc., Pasadena, CA
Launch Date: 1999
Cost: Free access, plus special “Whyville Pass” available for those who wish to pay for instant 24/7 access.
System Requirements: Java-enabled Web browser

In this world you can edit avatars, build and design content and have community events. You cannot script content, own or sell items. Read post on ‘Core Activities in Virtual Worlds‘.

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