ERIC Identifier: ED404987
Publication Date: 1997-03-00
Author: Turbee, Lonnie
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Information and Technology Syracuse NY.
Educational MOO: Text-Based Virtual Reality for Learning in
Community. ERIC Digest.
WHAT IS A MOO?
MOO stands for "Multi-user domain, Object-Oriented." Early multi-user
domains, or "MUDs," began as net-based dungeons-and-dragons type games, but MOOs
have evolved from these origins to become some of cyberspace's most fascinating
and engaging online communities. These are social environments in a text-based
virtual reality where people gather to chat with friends, meet new people, and
help build the MOO.
Users (sometimes called players or characters) connect from anywhere in the
world and are able to communicate with others in real time (as opposed to the
delayed communication of e-mail). Users can create rooms, objects, and programs
that recreate in text anything the user might imagine. For example, "Gregor" at
schMOOze University created a monkey that hands out dry towels to swimmers. This
program causes lines of text describing the monkey's actions to appear at
regular intervals on the screens of all the users in the same "room."
WHAT IS AN EDUCATIONAL MOO?
An educational MOO has an
academic theme and uses a variety of MOO communication tools such as internal
e-mail, newspapers, documents, blackboards, and classrooms to accommodate a
variety of teaching styles. Teachers can use these tools in harmony with the
goals for the class while exploiting the nature of MOO as a student-centered
Most MOOs are not designed with specific academic purposes in mind, and some
are simply not appropriate for young people. The following successful
educational MOOs, however, are suitable for learners of high school age and
--Diversity University, Inc. http://www.du.org/--a nonprofit organization
providing MOO environments for innovative approaches to learning. Click on
"Visit DU MOO" to access the MOO, or see their web gateway:
--Virtual Educational Environment (VEE) http://www.athena.edu/-- at Virtual
Online University, Inc., a nonprofit corporation providing computer-mediated
distance education classes and services.
--MundoHispano http://web.syr.edu/~lmturbee/mundo.html --a well-populated,
virtual representation of dozens of cities in the Spanish-speaking world,
written entirely in Spanish, for learners, teachers, and native speakers.
--MOOfrancais http://www.teleport.com/~dispatch/moofrancais.html --modeled
after Paris, a well-organized MOO for learners, teachers, and native speakers of
French, entirely in French.
--schMOOze University http://www.cc.rim.or.jp/~awaji/schMOOze/--built to
resemble a small college, learners can practice English and socialize with other
learners as well as native speakers of English.
--PennMOO http://dept.english.upenn.edu/~afilreis/88/moo-home.html --the
virtual classroom site in the English Department of the University of
WHAT CAN DIFFERENT KINDS OF USERS DO IN A MOO?
first connect to a MOO are called guests. Guests have the ability to "talk,"
send messages across the MOO by "paging," use MOOmail for sending messages, and
move around the MOO. They cannot make any permanent changes in their guest
"character," nor can they create objects.
Those who want a permanent character with password access need to request
this, usually by sending e-mail or MOOmail to the registrar (often the owner) of
the MOO. Permanent characters can name themselves, describe themselves, and set
their gender. Users come to know one another, forming friendships and a sense of
community. These relationships can be one of the most rewarding aspects of the
Builders are users that have programming permissions for creating rooms,
exits, and objects which they can describe in any way that is consistent with
the MOO's theme. They can also write customized, durable "messages" that
automatically appear when certain commands are used. For example, when a user
pages "MariLuz" at MundoHispano, that user will see a line of text in Spanish
stating that a kangaroo puts the message in its pocket and carries it to
Those who learn the MOO programming language can become programmers who
create more elaborate features such as Gregor's monkey. The ability to create
objects, "messages," and programs gives the user a sense of ownership, an outlet
for creative writing, and motivation to return.
The wizards are at the top of the hierarchy. They create new characters,
monitor connections, teach new users, and deal with problems, often with the
help of teacher-administrators. They also do deep-level programming and uniquely
have access to information such as the users' e-mail addresses. In most MOOs,
the archwizard is the one who founded the MOO, is the systems operator of the
MOO server (computer on which the MOO resides), and is considered the director
and ultimate decision-maker.
WHAT DIFFICULTIES CAN I EXPECT WHEN USING A MOO?
teachers are uncomfortable with the loss of control over student behavior that
inevitably occurs. Teachers should help students create personally meaningful
tasks before the MOO is accessed, to be followed up with an assessment of
outcomes. As an example, language learners might decide what topics they want to
discuss with native speakers, then later report to the class what they learned,
who taught it to them, and what web sites support their findings.
Some MOO users have quite an emotional response, positive or negative, to the
experiences they have. Students have been known to fall in love with or be very
offended by other users. While the sense of place and permanence that is
achieved on MOO can contribute to the meaningfulness of the learning experience,
some users simply have difficulty adjusting to having a virtual self (their
"character") somewhere in cyberspace. Teachers need to regularly schedule
in-class discussions that focus on student reaction to MOO use.
Finally, some students come with poor keyboarding skills and others are
uncomfortable with using technology in general. These students need extra
attention and time to use the MOO. Pairing them up with a more technically savvy
partner during MOO homework time is a good idea.
HOW DO I GET STARTED?
Teachers should spend several weeks
becoming familiar with the technology and the psycho-sociological experiences
associated with MOO before introducing it to their students. Using a MOO can be
like going to a foreign country, and students need to count on their teacher to
be a knowledgeable guide.
Technical considerations must be handled first: connecting to the MOO via
telnet, and doing it in a user-friendly way using a MUD client program. Given
that MOO is a program that runs on a remote computer, it is accessed by opening
a telnet program, typing in the server name and port number, and then connecting
at the log-in screen of the MOO. An example: open telnet on your own machine.
Type in "schmooze.hunter.cuny.edu" where the host name is requested, and type in
"8888" where the port number is requested. This will take you to the log-in
screen of schMOOze University. At that point, you can type "connect guest" or,
if you already have a permanent character, you can type "connect <name>
If you connect without using a MUD client, you will find that the lines of
text you are writing are interrupted by incoming text from others. This can be
most disconcerting. MUD clients, which can be downloaded for free, have a
variety of features. The most useful is one which prevents others' text from
TO ENSURE A POSITIVE MOO EXPERIENCE FOR YOU AND YOUR
(1) Become familiar with the technology and the social dynamics of
MOO use. Read web sites about educational and social MOOs and provide
appropriate web addresses to your students.
(2) Work the MOO into your class schedule, planning for at least three in-lab
MOO training sessions.
(3) Facilitate in-class design of tasks to be completed in the MOO for
homework. Decide how these tasks will be assessed.
(4) Have your students write journals about their MOO experiences and plan
for regular in-class discussions.
(5) Expect your students to teach you. Many MOO wizards are under age 15!
WHERE CAN I FIND MORE INFORMATION ON EDUCATIONAL MOOs?
--How to connect to a MUSH/MOO/MUD: telnet and client programs--
--Chaco Communications--http://www.chaco.com/ (download the excellent Pueblo
MUD client here)
--Educational VR (MUD) sub-page-
--DU journal of educational moos--
--Journal of MUD Research-- http://mellers1.psych.berkeley.edu/~jomr/
--MOO Teacher's Tip sheet-- http://www.daedalus.com/net/MOOTIPS.html
--MOOing in a foreign language: how, why, and who?--
--MUDs, MOOs, MUSHs--http://www.itp.berkeley.edu~thorne/MOO.html
--NETEACH-L MOO Sessions Information--
--freya's list o' moos--http://www.teleport.com/~autumn/moo.html
--The Palace, Inc. Virtual World Chat Software--
http://www.thepalace.com/index.html (2-D MOO-like environment)
Turbee, L. (1995). "MundoHispano: A
Text-Based Virtual Environment for Learners and Native Speakers of Spanish." In:
Mark Warschauer, (Ed.), "Virtual Connections" (pp. 233-234). Manoa, HI: Second
Language Teaching and Curriculum Center, University of Hawaii at Manoa.
Turbee, L. (1995). "What can we do in a MOO?: Suggestions for Language
Teachers." In: Mark Warschauer, (Ed.), "Virtual Connections" (pp. 235-238).
Manoa, HI: Second Language Teaching and Curriculum Center, University of Hawaii
Warschauer, M., Turbee, L., & Roberts, B. (1996). Computer learning
networks and student empowerment. "SYSTEM," 24(1), 1-14. (EJ 527 752)