Last week I had the opportunity to meet Sun's Chief Gaming Officer Chris Melissinos. Over lunch and at a panel discussion at St. Paul College (recently recognized as a Sun Center of Excellence) we had a wide ranging conversation about the future of educational technology, gaming, and internet culture. The event was graciously hosted by Warren Sheaffer of St. Paul College and Robert Reagan of Sun Microsystems.
Why am I so interested in gaming? I believe that the next generation learning platform will see a convergence of three elements: virtual worlds, gaming, and learning management systems. Gaming will become an essential part of learning and Sun's Project Darkstar is quickly emerging as the leading open source contender in this space. Wonderland, which sits on top of Darkstar, is Sun's equivalent of Second Life. Many of us are experimenting in Second Life but the future of education in Virtual Worlds, especially once we factor in the needs of the enterprise, will more likely go in the direction of environments such as Darkstar+Wonderland. (If you want to know about the potential of research collaboration in these types of spaces, check out Sun's MPK20.)
The current LMS, which we are all familiar with, will need to evolve from the currently bloated monolithic crapware to a true Learning Management Operating System (LMOS). The learning platform of the future will need a substrate that performs the mundane but essential bookkeeping functions such as authentication, authorization, and integration with backend systems. The LMOS should look more like the linux kernel: a lean, mean traffic cop that sits below the application layer and mediates access to common services.
Is there a Blackboard killer on the horizon? Yes. Forces such as Project Darkstar are gaining momentum in the education galaxy. Learning management systems that are not open source friendly or patent friendly will increasingly be at risk.