_Innovate_  is published bimonthly as a public service by the Fischler School of Education and Human Services at Nova Southeastern University and is sponsored, in part, by Microsoft.
The June/July issue, guest edited by Steve Bronack, Owen Kelly, and Roni Linser, provides a glimpse of the kinds of engaging, quality teaching, learning, and investigation going on today in the area of virtual worlds, simulations, and education. We begin the issue with a thoughtful exploration by Clark Aldrich that suggests a framework for thinking about virtuality and the place of virtual environments in the learning process. This framework provides a guide for educators considering the bewildering spectrum of virtual worlds, games, and simulations. See http://tinyurl.com/kk66dj 
Catheryn Cheal is one such educator; her study hints at the importance of a common understanding of the shared and differentiating attributes of games, virtual worlds, and simulations. Cheal found that her students were frustrated by their virtual world experience in an undergraduate course, in part because they saw Second Life as play. Cheal’s discussion suggests that educators must think carefully about how to use exercises using tools that do not have real-world analogues in their classes. See http://tinyurl.com/lsnn2j 
Whether your environment is a game, a simulation, or a virtual world, Paul Wallace and James Maryott offer a reminder that the behaviors of learners immersed in such spaces are likely to be motivated by the same beliefs and biases that motivate their real-world behaviors. Wallace and Maryott’s exploratory study of the influence of cultural assumptions and biases on the ways students present themselves as avatars, and how they react to the avatars of others, provides a framework for future research into the human factors that ultimately decide whether this technology is successful. See http://tinyurl.com/mr75my 
Baba Kofi Weusijana, Vanessa Svihla, Drue Gawel, and John Bransford explore how Second Life enables students to understand their own process of learning in ways that are generally inaccessible. Their innovative model uses the virtual world to offer not only a concrete experience to complement an abstract theory under investigation, but also a practical model for using virtual worlds, role play, and simulations to enhance classroom experiences. See http://tinyurl.com/nw9lm9 
Because Second Life has come to dominate the public understanding of virtuality, it is not surprising that Victoria L. Walker and Amanda Rockinson-Szapkiw also use Second Life to provide online counseling students with opportunities for practice. In a domain where many question the legitimacy of human-to-human contact mediated by avatars, Walker and Rockinson-Szapkiw suggest that virtual worlds enable safe, discipline-specific, hands-on practice activities similar to those available to on-campus students. See http://tinyurl.com/loec49 
While many useful ready-made virtual tools are becoming more available, using them in teaching remains difficult and intimidating for many. Penny de Byl describes the creation of a set of tools that teachers can use without needing special technical expertise, and without simply porting their old pedagogical ideas into a new framework. See http://tinyurl.com/nvswao 
BTW, we are delighted to announce that Innovate is co-sponsoring a virtual worlds workshop led by two of our special issue editors, Stephen Bronack and Owen Kelley, at the WCET annual conference this coming October in Denver. See http://tinyurl.com/l8hyhk 
In the From Our Sponsor section, I interviewed Ralph Young, Microsoft\’s vice president, worldwide communications sector, about the future of higher education. Young describes the challenges that lie ahead for higher education; discusses the strategies, approaches, and solutions that are being developed across the world; and outlines the role technology will play in the future of higher education. See http://tinyurl.com/mtmpnr 
We have extended the deadline for our upcoming special issue on the future of the textbook. Submissions will be accepted through July 31, 2009; the projected publication date is December 2009/January 2010.
We hope that you enjoy this issue. Please use the discussion board within each article to raise questions or provide additional commentary. Your comments will be sent to authors for their response, which will become part of the record for their article. Also, please forward this announcement to appropriate mailing lists and to colleagues who want to use IT tools to advance their work and ask your organizational librarian to link to Innovate in their resource section for open-access e-journals.
James L Morrison
Fischler School of Education and Human Services
Nova Southeastern University