Posts Tagged 'second life'

Second Life Opening Up Education

Yesterday (11/12/08) I attended a session on Second Life (SL) sponsored by the Harvard Alumni Association in partnership with the Berkman Center for Internet and Society entitled, “Second Life: Open Education and Virtual Worlds.”  One session presenter Professor Charles Nesson gave an overview of some of the advantages of SL as a pedagogical tool.  One comment he made in favor of SL was that it offers a “versimiliitude of presence” and has the potential for richness in communication that an on-line chat room cannot offer.  I have used on-line chats in my own teaching specifically for exam review sessions during which students ask questions directed to me (and also to others on line), and I have found them advantageous to both me and the students.  After doing some exploring on my own in SL (see post of 9/29/08), I can envision how a virtual presence can enhance the chat feature because SL uses a written text chat along with a visual of the avatars who are doing the chatting.  And the visual can be very engaging.

Along with the many advantages of using SL for courses Prof. Nesson also mentioned some caveats.  First, SL is still a bit crude and klutzy, and it has a steep learning curve.  I could not agree more.  As i wrote in my 9/29/08 post, I felt experienced quite disoriented in the virtual world, and the many clicks, arrows, and buttons required to move and behave my avatar take a lot of time to learn.  After devoting too many hours to SL, I decided to put it away before it ate up all my remaining sabbatical time in my “first life.”  But, I concur with Prof. Nesson when he stated that SL has great potential to be an effective educational environment of the future.”

The bigger issue Prof. Nesson spoke about concerned open access and open education.  He referred to the Open University Campaign and the student organization called Free Culture. The first paragraph of the “manifesto” of states that:

“The mission of the Free Culture movement is to build a bottom-up, participatory structure to society and culture, rather than a top-down, closed, proprietary structure. Through the democratizing power of digital technology and the Internet, we can place the tools of creation and distribution, communication and collaboration, teaching and learning into the hands of the common person — and with a truly active, connected, informed citizenry, injustice and oppression will slowly but surely vanish from the earth.”

This organization deals with issues surrounding intellectual property rights, and urges us to move away from “digital feudalism.” It’s a fascinating site; check it out.  There is also a link to get a free copy of Free Culture by Lawrence Lessig.

Back to the SL session.  The second presenter was Prof. Nesson’s daughter, Rebecca, who is is a doctoral student in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Harvard. She is also a doyenne at Berkman Island in Second Life.  She talked about putting the open education concept into action by opening up courses to the public.  A course offered at the Law School is also offered in the Extension School through SL, and this extension school course is also open to the public. Although persons participating in these open courses do not get grades (as those in the Extension School and Law School do), they do participate in discussions with other course members who enroll in the traditional way.  Rebecca maintains that the participation is valuable and that all students, regardless of how they enroll, benefit.  This point of open participation which benefits all seems to resonate with the notion of “peering” from Wikinomics and Michael Wesch’s comment (in one of his Youtubes) that none of us is smart as all of us.

As I write about this SL session, I realize the ways in which the notions of connectivity, collaboration, creativity are themes which permeate all aspects of Web 2.0 technology run through Second Life as well.

Journeying without direction into Second Life

A few days ago I decided to venture into Second Life (SL).  I was tempted by ISTE‘s attention to SL in its publications.  Although I got motivated too late to join the SL Community Convention on September 5-7, I felt that it was better to be late than not at all.  So, as directed, I went to the SL site and chose a name and avatar.  Although I need to adjust my avatar (whenever I figure out how to do that), at least I’m in (so to speak).  I tried to navigate around the site, but got completely disoriented and exited.  It’s certainly not uncommon for us “traditional educators” (as John Jamison calls us) to feel disoriented in this 3D virtual world.  In fact, disorientation has been discussed for some years by those who wrote about Web 2.0 technologies like wikis for example.  Brian Lamb (2004) has written about feeling disoriented in relation to reading wiki sites because of unfamiliar organizing structures.  But he believes that “recovery” can happen.  So, I am hopeful that with some assistance from fellow SLers and more exploration on my own, I can get a foothold and make some sense of it all.  For now, though, I have retreated to familiar text to learn about SL.  I went to a SL for educators wiki and read the proceedings from the 2007 Second Life Education Workshop in Chicago.  There I found some interesting facts.  First, I learned some new terminology – always helpful in negotiating a new culture.  Then I found that many presenters reference a book by James Gee (2004) called What video games have to teach us about learning and literacy.  I think I will have to get my hands on this book.  Vicki Suter and Ellen Frazier from Pepperdine did a presentation called “Sl as Possibility Space.”  From them, I pondered their definition of learning: “a social practice involving doing and being rather than an individual process of knowing.”  John Jamison (a.k.a. Virtual Bacon) commented in his “Tips for Dinosaur Wrangling” that Second Life cannot be understood from the outside. People need to get in it in order to understand it.  In other words, it needs to be experienced.  That makes sense.  I wil be diving in soon.  I also learned from Sarah Robbins (a.k.a. Intellagirl Tully) in her talk on “Enagement in SL Learning” her definition of engagement: a student’s willingness to spend time and energy on leraning.”  She believes that Sl can be a source of motivation for many students in a variety of courses especially online courses where students tend to drop out at higher rates than they do for face-to-face classroom courses.  So…there’s lots more to learn about and do in Second Life, but for now, I’m taking a break.

August 2020