Tracy L.M. Kennedy is a PhD Candidate in Sociology at the University of Toronto. Her doctoral thesis investigates how Canadian households have domesticated ICTs. Tracy is also a research consultant in virtual and physical worlds, and has co-organized several blended reality events in Second Life. Tracy sees the value of building relationships between academia and industry; she has worked with Intel’s People and Practices group researching people’s online privacy concerns, and with Microsoft’s Community Technologies group and Games User Research group researching women’s online gaming experiences. Moreover, she has collaborated on research projects about video games, gamers, virtual worlds, and MMOGs with several universities across North America. Tracy teaches part-time in the Department of Communication, Popular Culture & Film at Brock University on topics such as virtual worlds, video games, digital culture and social media. As an avid cross-platform gamer, Tracy spends her work and leisure time exploring the socio-cultural implications of interactions in online gaming spaces.
Traditional didactic modes of learning have fallen under considerable scrutiny; lecture styles with a top-down approach and problematic power relations between teacher and student have situated information delivery often as linear and static. Archaic methods of knowledge transfer and learning strategies are not only mind-numbing but also do not allow for nor encourage constructive interaction between students, and between students and their teachers. Researchers have long since argued for a more interactive and empowering pedagogical style of learning and knowledge construction inside and outside the classroom (Briskin & Coulter, 1992; Brown, 1992). Previous literature has considered the use of ICTs and video games in the curriculum and notes the need for creative interfaces that encourage learner-centered activities (Aguilera & Mendiz, 2003; Gee, 2003). Moreover, virtual environments have been touted as transformative spaces that can encourage innovative learning strategies which ultimately work to change the design and delivery of the formal curriculum (Hobbs, Gordon & Brown, 2006).
Given the pedagogical potential of online spaces, Tracy is interested in how children and youth integrate these spaces (virtual worlds, social networking sites and so forth) into their daily practices and how they collaboratively co-construct knowledge and meaning across a variety of social locations. These constructs and meanings represent informal learning experiences that are rooted in peer-to-peer culture and curiosity and play. As such, Tracy’s research explores the significance of these informal learning practices and the role this takes in the formal learning processes of the classroom.