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Second Life October 15, 2007

Posted by davidit in collaborative, Education, Inquiry Model, Second Life, student engagement, thinking skills, ulearn07, Web 2.0.
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I have long been intrigued with the whole notion of online collaborative gaming and its potential for education.  Shoot ’em ups, although strategy games, are still blood baths and not really suited to pre-teen education, I can see the letters from parents now (note not e-mails, what does that say?)!  As a result, I have been intrigued but have not persued it further.  Second Life, on the other hand, I immediately saw as having huge potential in the education sector, but how?

I recently embarked on an experiment with Helen in the UK to see how we could exploit Second Life to enhance our learning partnership and to really develop a sense of community between our two schools.  I wondered if we could not work together on a collaborative construction project as devised by the students.   I envisaged many student avatars all working collaboratively to create some edifice and leaving instructions and queries for the next shift as we sailed through time zones…

Helen and I both created our Avatars, mine is a hopeless representation of me!  I tried to be honest about my appearance and my efforts ended up looking like some ring worm suffering alopaecia sufferer!  Anyway our experiences on Linden as newbies were enough to put us both off!  Helen was bored to tears with some overbearing architect with too much too say.  I guess that if you are a bore in your first life you bring that imprint with you into Second Life!   I just jumped straight in and clicked on the first ‘popular’ tag that seemed to be in the centre of Linden and promptly ended up in a strip club!  Now I could definitely not only see the letters from the parents if I let my students loose here, but my resignation letter too!  My only defence being that it would have been genuine discovery learning!

My interest in Second Life was re-kindled at the recent Ulearn07 conference, when Tony Ryan talked about not only our Second Life, but our Third and even Fourth lives.  Since then the I have seen the following:



I have come to the conclusion that there is too much here not to be used by students, but still the un-restricted access issue is one that has to be wrestled with.   Not least the fact that Second Life is filtered on School Zone and I have a sneaking suspicion that the ports that it communicates on are locked by our tech support company,  just as Joost is (an easy fix but an irritation non the less). How do we protect our students from the adult aspects of Linden?  If a 10 year old were to attempt to walk into a strip club in our First Lives, they would be prevented from doing so by the moral imperatives of the  adults in or around the establishment, not to mention the legality of the situation.  Second Life has no such moral or legal imperatives, it is the wild west and that, for many, is its appeal and I for one would not want to restrict or control that, for adults.  Second Life is a masque ball, we can be who we want to be, the assumption is that all around us are voters and tax payers, ie adult.  Our Avatars have and give no visual clues to the genuine age, gender, ethnicity and identity of those whom we meet.  That is Second Life’s appeal for adults and its Achilles heel for students to use it.  So how do we get our students into Linden without invoking the wrath of parents?

I have been discussing this idea with Fiona and she has come up with a fantastic idea that we are going to be working through this term with my G+T students.  The students will be observers of Linden, by proxy though our Avatars.  I think that this has potential and am looking forward to it.  We will be the guides and as such can teleport our students to  resources and experiences suited to their needs.  This however will not enable the students to ‘experience’  and explore unfettered the environment of Second Life.  What is needed is an island that is the sole preserve of educators,  who  will be able to allow their students to roam freely.  Until this happens or some other solution is devised, our students will be passive observers of a world that is not meant experienced passively.  In the mean time resources such as the ‘International Spaceflight Musuem’ are too good for education not to utilise.  I will keep you posted of our progress. If you would like to be part of this experiment, let me know and I will work out a way to include your or your students.  I am planning to do this on Friday mornings at 11:00, but will keep you posted.  If you want to find me in Linden I am ‘Alban Sicling.’  If you see me in a strip club, it is not me, but my identical twin, honest…



1. Marnie - October 16, 2007

You may get ID’d again with an avatar like that!

2. davidit - October 16, 2007

Ah but I might have other avatars in Second Life that you would not recognise! I can be anyone I like as many times over as I want in Linden!

3. blanchy - October 21, 2007

Hi David – I was very reassured to read of your first impressions of Second Life. I confess I found the whole experience a bit bewildering (read boring) and secretly feel it isn’t intuitive enough (yet?) to take off or be useful. I was also a bit concerned about the installation itself and what it did to my computer! I’m wading my way through this article at the moment http://valleywag.com/tech/second-life/a-story-too-good-to-check-221252.php Is Second Life all marketing hype? AND why is there no Linux client?

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