Anyone have a Second Life yet? What's so compelling about Second Life anyway? Is this the dawn of Web 3.0? What are the implications for education? Any great SL resources out there?

My avatar's name is Lucy Daffodil if you're looking for a friend there!

Lucy Gray

Tags: life, virtualworlds, Second_Life, secon, second

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I am doing research regarding Second Life in grad school and what I have found so far is that it is very limiting in terms of how you can hold class. Even in the most constructivist of atmospheres, SL is still very limiting. Since I lean towards cognitivism, I find that most folks hit a level of cognitive overload dealing solely with the interface and navigation controls.

I think a tool like Elluminate is significantly more appropriate for the type of interaction offered by Second Life. I finished one paper on it, am beginning a MUVE lit review, and am going to embark on an empirical study of classes held in SL over the summer. Fun!

I've been working in the 3d world for about 5 years now working in VRML long before Second Life and showed up on the scene. I have no problem with the technology. My problem is the way educators see the environments -- as another way to hold classes.

The value of these spaces is the opportunity to create instructional experiences that do not involve holding class. Example: I used VRML to create a 20m diameter eyeball with all the parts labeled and textured just like a real one so that visitors to the space could fly in and around it ... looking at it from all sides ... even inside looking out thru the lens. Limitations on the technology didn't permit me to actually show the effect of focal distance inside the eye, but that was about the only limitation. It was not a place to "hold a class" -- it was a space for the student to experience the content in a different, more direct, more personal way. It'll never be used, of course, because it required a specialized plug-in -- just like Second Life and do -- and while the plug in was free, the company providing it only had a PC version.

I have the same problem with Elluminate and all the other "webinar" software that requires people to sacrifice participation on the altar of synchonicity. They all require people to gather in real time, seated politely at their own desks, and get lectured at by a disembodied voice -- or worse -- a talking head. Sure they provide a "back channel" text chat which, often as not, is ignored by the presenter. Ya, I can go back and passively watch the recordings, but the value -- the promise -- is participation and these kinds of synchronous channels rob the learner of that participation.

I understand that using the technology to do the same old thing is a common step in technological adoption, but come on people! Isn't it time we got OUT of the classroom model and started getting into learning??

Repeat after me.

"As good as the classroom" isn't good enough.
Hi, I'm an elementary teacher who doesn't even use 2ndL herself, and can't with her students, so this is all academic to me for now.

Question - Was the entire experience self-directed for students, or are the some meetup times, teacher check-in. I understand your point about what a waste it would be to use these environments as another place to hold a lecture, but how does the experience get tied together both among the students, and for the whole class?

When you say, "as good as a classroom" which classroom are we talking about? One with collaborative projects, centers, etc. or one with a "sage on the stage" and worksheets. I think online makes it better, but there is a big difference between building online learning on that first class compared with doing in the second.
Any classroom, Alice.

I don't care what classroom -- how good it is, what the activities are, who's in it, or who's leading it. The classroom is a Box. It's always been a Box. It's always going to be a box. We hold it up as a gold standard because it's the Box we know. The limitations on the Box are space, time, activity, and participation. Those will always be the limits because they're inherent in the space. Because the primary communcation technology is spoken language in the Box, you're limited to a bandwidth of about 150-200 wpm but most people can read at twice that speed.

I'm not saying that some classrooms don't have some value, but we got enough classrooms and, if we're moving into a new environment, maintaining the old limitations arbitrarily when they no longer apply *just* because they're the limitations we're familiar with is a problem in my book.
AMEN, brother Lowell! I agree wholeheartedly. I'm just inside the door of SL, but haven't truly devoted the time and energy to learning the navigation tools well enough to begin creating learning experiences. I have a need to learn, and learn them soon, because I'll be bringing students into Teen SL as soon as I can (I know--if I stand out of their way, they'll teach me and pull me along until I get my feet).

As you well know, when immigrants move to new lands, they bring what's familiar to them. Sometimes that baggage helps them gain comfort until they assimilate, but sometimes the baggage allows them to continue living in and re-creating what they wanted so desparately to leave.

I think if we're able to solve the "traditional classroom" dilemma in SL, we may begin to solve it in Real Life. Then we can begin to transfer our learning and experiences to allowing immigrants of the world to assimilate into their new cultures without giving up what is best about their original home culture!

Wow--lessons from SL bringing about world peace? hmmm...
I completely agree with your view above.

Why bring RL limitations and constrains into 3D environments where avatars can fly or lift 10x10x10 concrete cubes with one arm .. or have these cubes hover in mid air ... or ... :-)
Do you see anyway for SL to improve Language Arts education? My thoughts are creating the setting of a novel, and characters that interact as the characters (RP?)

My students are English as a Second Language, but many were born here and now have native social language, but not academic language. SL is good with helping people learn social language, but not so good at advancing academic language.

What about writing? Is there a context in SL for that? Writing exists on notecards passed between residents. How could that be used in the Language Arts classroom?

Your thoughts?
Hi Lucy and Jen! Great to see you here, AND in SL! Let's get this party started!

I'm currently doing grant-funded research into the educational uses of Second Life.

So far, I agree that SL is SO different, that it's hard for people to grasp educational uses quickly. We tend to think of things the way we always have, and since everthing in SL is user-created, you start with NOTHING ... and it's very daunting!

Nonetheless, there are several excellent people out there looking at SL very seriously and I am confident a clearer picture will emerge as word of their work gets out.

My project blog, with helpful link (and stultifyling banal personal commentary), can be found here:

My avatar's name is KJ Hax.

See you in-world!

Mr. Lowell,

Thanks for your response about classrooms.

I'm still having a hard time picturing your lesson with the eye diagram. Do the students just go into the site and explore? Was there a learning objective? How did you facilitate/mediate the learning?

The materials were developed as a demonstration product for a course on the physiology of the eye. And yes, the idea was that the students would be able to "fly around inside the eye" -- think of it as an eye diagram like you might find in any textbook, but in three dimensions with the ability for the student to turn, look at the back, get inside, and move in close to see the finer structures. The idea is not that the 3d model be used by itself, any more than you'd use a 2d diagram or a textual description. Things that are difficult to describe -- like the position of the fovia or the distribution of rods and cones become obvious when you can stand next to them and look at 'em.

It wasn't actually used in a course because the technology isn't accessible to students with blindness and visual impairment so we were prohibited implementing this in a course. Just like we would be unable to offer a course in Second Life.

*MY* objective in creating the 3d model was to show a positive exemplar of how the technology might be used in a way that did not involve creating 3d classrooms so an avatared teacher and student could do the same old thing. The possibilities are endless, but none of them are being explored.

This is what I see being done:

- Build an amphitheter where a teacher can project a video and students can sit and be quiet.

- Use a 3d space as a chat room for a very small number of students to talk about a very carefully controlled subject.

Some off the cuff ideas about what might be done:

- Build the Globe Theatre and have a class enact Shakespeare's plays, or produce a play of their own in appropriate Elizabethan mode.

- Build the Peaquod and have the students go in search of Moby Dick

- Build an internal combustion engine to demonstrate how the parts of it work so they can get up close and personal to see it actually in motion without being burned.

- Build a space station -- pick your lesson plan here between astronomy, physics, materials sciences, math, geography ...

- Use a 3d model of the solar system to teach about the planets

- Recreate the Rome under Julius Caesar. Speak only Latin.

... that's all I can come up with in one minute ...

I could probably come up with more, but I don't teach any of these kinds of courses. (My field is distance education.) While Second Life is an interesting research platform, at the moment it's not a viable teaching platform in the US because it's not accessible. Regulations 504 and 508 prohibit the use of these technologies to actually teach a class for any institution receiving federal funds. That said, a lot of institutions are using them anyway on the grounds that "we don't have any blind students."

Does that help? Keep asking questions! I'm happy to answer them.
If you will help my students (me) I want to do those!!!

I planned to create a physical inflatable model of a cell, with the kids playing the parts of the cell and how they interact. There'd be a video and the kids could tell not only about the entire cell, but their roles and what specifically they learned/liked/wished for future studies.

The problem was how in the world I was going to pay for that much plastic for my kids to get inside this thing AND the other really cool "inflatables" I was thinking like ocean/lake biomes, and planets/space, geometric shapes, heart, digestive system, etc. I have been worried about costs.

Now there's some merit to doing these in RL, but I think I now have a bigger reason to begin learning SL. But there's an "out" for me. I'll not be the builder; I'll have kids do it. They're pros at Google Sketchup and can navigate in all their other cool games like Runescape and others. (heck, in Sketchup, we re-created Mayan Temples, Angkor Wat, Ancient African temples, the Great Wall, various native American homes...why shouldn't we be able to create where we can walk around?)

Thank you for the ideas! I PROMISE: your ideas WILL take shape from students' hands, if you're interested in seeing your ideas come to fruition.

*standing up* To SL experts with time and patience: I'm Ginger Mokeev in SL and need some serious help just mastering how to move around. I'll be happy to barter your skills for something that I can provide for you! Let me know!
I heartily concur with lowell on this... 

It's helpful to remember that there has always been SOME place for the sage on the state, whether it's giving a speech, or a demo. Sometimes you need to show a bunch of people something, and you just need the most expedient way to do it. Granted, as the tech changes, that expedient way can become a video, a 3d model, a projection thru individual tablets and PC's, but if i had 30 boyscouts at a camp and had to show them how to make a fire, i'd still tell them to gather round and show them, and then have them go do it themselves. Some things just work well that way. Others (like learning econ, discussing poetry) may very well not.

I did a fair chunk of work in SL, but unfortunately didn't write enough about it- but what i did might we worth perusing if you're interested.


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