Engaging Students in Virtual Space Exploration through Second Life

As our district embarks upon Web 2.0 implementation for our 21st Century learning enviroments, we are looking for the right tools to engage our digital learners. There is a company called Daden Limited in the UK which has created an Apollo 11 Tranquility Base Simulation in Second Life. I had recently learned about this sim region from one of my PLN colleagues on Twitter. I had to check it out.

I entered SecondLife (Multi-User Virtual Environment) as my avatar EdTechLeader Davidovasic, and brought my son Brandon along for the journey. We went out to the Daden Space SLURL http://slurl.com/secondlife/daden space/127/127/301 and put on our space suits, then teleported to the surface of the moon. We landed at the Tranquility Base simulation site, then proceeded to explore and take pictures. There was even a realistic looking Lunar Module there to climb on. My son was thrilled and so was I. What a fantastic way to get students interested in science and space, by going to a virtualized moon landing site, and following in the footsteps (or giant leaps) of the astronauts. These pictures will astound you: Apollo 11 Memorial Photos and Slideshow.

Coincidentally, I had a conversation last week with our Curriculum Director in charge of CTE programs who mentioned that he wanted to start some kind of a space program curriculum in our district. Now that we have interactive whiteboards and laptops, wouldn't it be incredible to combine that virtual space experience with the technology we now have in our 21st Century classrooms? The potential for engaging our digital learners through this type of experience is immense. Once students are engaged, they become intersted in learning and their achievement increases. I can't wait to show our staff this amazing discovery next week--imagine how it might feel on a Smartboard.

Views: 184

Tags: 21stCentury, MUVE, SecondLife, VirtualLearning

Comment by Rich White on August 30, 2009 at 4:46pm
We have done alot with Opensim and Cobalt with our Edusim project - http://edusim3d.com .... Getting the 3D environments on the interactive whiteboards were very engaging ... can look at a little more info here as well: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edusim
Comment by David Ligon on August 31, 2009 at 6:08pm
Rich, thank you for letting me know about Edusim3D! Quite frankly, I am blown away by the power and potential of what this tool can do in classroom, based on reviewing clips of its usage in a preschool posted on your site. Wow! I definitely want to learn more about it and see how I can get this into our district. Without question, it truly engages digital learners, and adds a great VR design complement to Smartboards.
Comment by Beth Willette on August 31, 2009 at 6:27pm
I teach history at a high school in Michigan and have been exploring the possibilities of using a 3-D virtual world for teaching history. However, I think Second Life does not have enough security and control for me to use in my classroom. I am currently looking at ActiveWorlds as a possibility. I know how engaging the 3-D environment is for students. In fact, I had a couple of high school seniors looking at their education worlds with me and they got so caught up in an Italian chemistry lab that they were still there 2 hours later when I checked on them. :-) There was also a beating heart that was very exciting and a world created entirely from Van Gogh paintings that we really enjoyed. I'm just not sure where I'll find the time to create a world of my own...
Comment by David Ligon on September 1, 2009 at 2:32pm
I know that creating an entire virtual world may seem very daunting, but if these pre-schoolers featured on an Edusim video can do it, then maybe it is within our reach as well. For the Class of 2022 generation, Virtual World Designer could be a really cool job awaiting them when they enter the job market after graduation. There are companies like Daden Limited and Virtual Space Entertainment (click on Explore then Media to see the Blue Mars 2150 demo from link) that would hire graduates with those skills to develop entertainment and educational applications for Second Life, National Geographic, The Smithsonian, and others. I am intrigued to know more about the possiblities these tools offer for the future of our digital natives. I think this is only just the beginning of where students today are destined to arrive later in the 21st century.
Comment by Lucy Barrow on September 19, 2009 at 7:10am
Hi David,
Many thanks for this post. I can't wait to explore the Apollo 11 simulation!
There are countless numbers of amazing educational areas in Second Life but, unfortunately, the issue of access by students under the age of 18 remains.
Do you demo areas to a whole class? It is a great shame that areas like the Apollo 11 simulation cannot be accessed on an individual basis by our students.
There is a group in Second Life called "K-12 in SL Now". They are working towards finding a solution to allow student access to participate in "field trips" in SL.
http://k12insecondlifenow.wikispaces.com/
I am currently researching the possibilities of setting up our own Teen Second Life closed estate, but hope that one day these field trips will become a reality.
Comment by David Ligon on September 20, 2009 at 4:45pm
Hi Lucy,
Thanks for your comment. I appreciate you letting me know about the K-12 group in SL, that seems promising. We have not yet rolled out SL in our district. My current involvement is still in the personal research phase, along with my son who is in the third grade. I monitor his use right along-side him, so that keeps him out of trouble. You raise a good point about Apollo 11. Just last night we were visiting there and some inappropriate (names, attire, conversations) visitors showed up--it is listed as a "mature" site after all. We left immediately and wound up at a really cool spaceport site. It may even be more educational than Apollo 11... we learned about the planets, asteroids, sputnik, took a ride on a space transport vehicle, and even listened to radio telescope signals from deep space. Once I compile the info I will share it with you. It has tremendous potential for a science classroom segment on our solar system and learning about space. Best of luck on your efforts in putting together your own closed estate for field trips, that sounds great!
Comment by David Ligon on September 21, 2009 at 12:14am
Engage students in learning about the Solar System and space at the Spaceport UK in Second Life: slideshow & annotations

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