I still field the question, "What do virtual worlds have to do with learning?". Take a look at this short and very accessible video on YouTube, called "MIT sketching".
An anonymous MIT researcher illustrates an early incarnation of a tool called ASSIST, which allows an engineer to design a mechanical system on paper and then interact with the design as if it were a physical system.
As the researcher observes in the video, "one of the nice things about an online environment is we can have the advantage of having it feel like paper and yet be able to do things that are not possible to do on paper."
All human creativity, including science, art, and literature, are imaginative activities. The ability to imagine different possibilities and interact with them is one of the virtues of virtual worlds.
According to Phil Long at MIT, "The ‘unnamed professor’ is Prof. Randall Davis of CSAIL at MIT. The software is Magic Paper, now called Natural Interaction. More can be found about it at http://icampus.mit.edu/magicpaper. Or feel free to contact me: email@example.com". Source: Chronicle of Higher Education, The Wired Campus.