Second (Life) Thoughts – Part I

While I have been quite familar with Second Life (SL) for over a year now, I’ve been giving a good looking at as of late.  The following thoughts are just that, thoughts. There are still many questions to ask and seek answers to, many that will take awhile.  I’ve decided to write a series of posts related to Second Life as opposed to the one post I was brewing that was too huge. In this first part of Second (Life) Thoughts I’ll address SL for personal learning communities and how I think virtual worlds should be presented to educators.  There is increasingly more research being done on such virtual environments and I will try my best, in future posts, to address the work that is being done and the work that has been done (this is not totally new stuff).

Second Life for Personal Learning Communities
I have experienced meeting people, taking part in conversations, sharing resources, etc. “in world” as an extension of my professional (personal) learning community. I recently took part in a book discussion in SL and while the discussion was rich and engaging I realized, afterwards, that I arrived in world, sat my avatar (Tooka Mulligan) on a couch and proceeded to text chat with those present. Now I ask, was the 3D virtual environment needed? My answer is absolutely not. Though it was a fireside chat of sorts, I didn’t even notice the fire.  I was engaged in the chat.  It wasn’t the 3D environment that kept me there, it was the conversation.  The group could have used a variety of tools to facilitate the conversation, they just so happened to choose this one. The way I was connected to this group was not through SL but through Twitter.  I would have gladly scheduled a Skypechat if that’s what was decided upon.  Oh, and I got bumped from SL three times during the chat.  If it is the chosen medium I will  gladly use the tool if it is reliable.  But are we creating an divide from educators who aren’t so savvy?  Shouldn’t we bring tools to them and not them to the tools?  Meet them at their level of readiness, interest and ability?

Presenting Second Life to Educators
Recently at a meeting I attended, there was a 3 hour presentation on SL where a co-presenter mentioned that they had made notable contacts with those in the edublogger community in SL. When the same presenter then asked where else someone could make such connections my response was that I had been connected with the very same notables via reading/commenting on blogs, contributing to wikis, and most recently posting “tweets” on my Twitter network.

Sylvia Martinez over at the Generation YES Blog has some outstanding second thoughts on Second Life including the following, a quote I feel is timely:

Even now as I share my doubts about Second Life, I would NEVER begrudge someone else their epiphany. I hope educators who are having transformative experiences in Second Life continue to share them with others, but realize that it’s the epiphany that counts, not the vehicle. Providing multiple avenues for such learning epiphanies, for both educators and children, should be the ultimate goal, not to force others to re-experience your own personal transformative event.

BTW I “met” Sylvia via Twitter and not SL, in fact I’m not even sure I have met her in SL. Maybe this is coming through with a somewhat personal tone, but I’m sure others out there have the feeling that educational technologies are being forced on them. Especially our teachers.  Hardly the way to promote such a progressive technology.

What I’m getting at is not that I’m anti-Second Life, but looking at it with constructive criticism.  Shouldn’t we be demonstrating the power of virtual worlds to educators in more experiential ways?  Why not have them participate in a trial from Of Mice and Men or a body image lesson and let them assume a role to play.  Let them experience SL through meaningful interactions not by shopping for hair and clothes at Be-Dazzeled.

4 comments / Add your comment below

  1. are we creating an divide from educators who aren’t so savvy? Shouldn’t we bring tools to them and not them to the tools? Meet them at their level of readiness, interest and ability?

    this was the first quote that stood out to me and my reflections are very similar to Sylvia’s. I think there is a gap between those that are using the tools and those that aren’t. People have different comfort levels and understanding of these tools…skype is a great tool because people are familiar with “phones” and calling one another synchronously. A parent whose kids use kebkinz may have a familiarity with 3d virtual environments. But kids are using ALL of these things–and it is the MEANINGFUL DEMONSTRATION that is most important. I conducted a session on Web 2.0 tools where I did everything I would have done in a traditional lesson…modeled, guided practice, used markers on a whiteboard…the technology was seamlessly integrated…that is the goal. And folks got it….because the tech use demonstrated was purposeful and meaningful.

    I think it is important to point out that I came upon this post via my twitterlist 😉 useful, purposeful connection, how about that?

  2. Hello Mobileminded —

    I am glad you took the time to post and I am looking forward to your part 2.

    One of the powers of online collaboration to me is the ability to take what would have been a “water cooler” discussion and throw it out for the world to participate it.

    I am enjoying my conversations in SL — but I have to admit that I am yearning for something more — perhaps that might be voice in SL? Not sure.

    I agree with you 100% that SL is not the ultimate in conversation arenas — but it has to be recognized as one that is working (for some, perhaps many!)

    The Mice and Men comment intrigues me. Had the teacher conducted this lesson before in classroom setting? And now had brought it into another venue — with perhaps more participating than just one classroom?? Is there any other arena right now — that several people could be in one location and acting out a play — not just via skype or elluminate?? I am just wondering out loud here……Did the availability of SL take this project (at least for this teacher) to the next level of his/her teaching? Or was this just a SL experience.

    I look forward to reading more from you — and chatting as well. Grins, I promise I won’t bump into you in SL.

    Thanks for your post.

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