This is too wild! I am still in New York and will leave early tomorrow morning. Taking time to explore more of Ning, I started to play with the gadgets. There is one called Unypd which is a 2D virtual world that overlays Google Earth. Sounds cool. So….I added it to my page and started to play. Then I realized something very strange. Unypd knew I was in New York! In fact, it even knew I was in Midtown Manhattan! This adds an entirely new dimension to virtual worlds because the virtual world here mirrors the real world and has elements of geo-referenced data in real-time. There were about 8 others in the same space which means that I could chat with any of them in the virtual world yet they were also close in physical space! While a bit creepy, there might be some interesting educational possibilities with such a tool. Not accurate enough for navigation, you would not want to depend on this tool to find your way home. However, you could embed information about locations and then learners can both physically and virtually explore the space. They would start in the virtual world to get the overview and embedded information. This could then be followed with real-world exploration of the same space. Students could then go back to the virtual world and place data on the map based on what they saw in the real-world.
I will have to play with this more when I get home to an area I know better. It would be fun to develop a sample lesson using this tool. Perhaps- more on this down the road.