Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Blog #7 - Second Life

Where to even begin with my Second Life (SL) experience: after walking into the bottom of the lake outside the NLU building and being guided back in thanks to Matt and Craig, I was beginning to wonder if I was meant to even be allowed into SL. Seriously, I have enough trouble with the first life that this site held little interest to me. I'm still a bit skeptical with using this in a classroom of students (especially at the lower elementary levels), but can see some possibilities if closely monitored.

When looking at the options of where to explore with my field trip partner, we were immediately taken with the "Tombstone"/Adult rated section. If I as a teacher get excited to find out what kind of trouble I can get into with this kind of site, how will students act as well. After discussing options with my partner (and remember my problem at the bottom of the lake), we decided to stay away from Tombstone which was probably a good thing.

What we did do was explore the recreation of the chapel, the tsunami area, as well as NASA. For a classroom to be able to examine the shuttles up close and personal allows them a view of life that a textbook could not; the same being said for the other sites. However, this is where Kathy's blog from last week comes into focus. To trust our students in this type of open world/environment, we must train them before we even get there about proper etiquette and online behavior. Just as we cannot shelter them from all the evils in the world (example from this week - an unknown person trying to pick up children at several bus stops), we can train them how to act and behave (stranger danger). With more and more students spending a vast amount of time in the digital world, these behaviors must also be ingrained in them just as much as "don't talk to strangers". If we do this, we can trust them to behave in an appropriate manner no matter where they go to learn.

SL has great possibilities if used in the appropriate context. Students can meet to experience concerts together or talk with musicians the world over to gain knowledge and expertise that would not be available to them in other forms. They can travel to places that they had only previously heard about making learning come to life. The face of education is constantly changing, and I believe we will see programs like this become much more valuable as technology continues to evolve. Now we must evolve our teaching to prepare our students to engage with these programs.


  1. I'm glad your experience was mostly positive. I think it's very easy to raise "objections" to using SL with kids. But SL is just a prototype...a model of what might come. It would be foolish in the current legal environment for schools to just let kids "out" to wander around. There are technologies that can be used to make the technology usable. :-) Of course, the key thing is to find those technologies that don't severely limit the educational potential.

  2. In my post about SL, I also mentioned about how cool it was to see the rockets up close. Sure, you Gould do that with a Computer generated animation, but to actually walk the steps to the Apollo command module really gave a perspective on the height.

    I'm not sure SL is a viable educational venue for students. Sure, there was some cool stuff, but there's too much inappropriate stuff. If the NASA site was recreated in ScienceSim or some other free open sim environment dedicated to education, then the possibilities start to appear.

    Another issue is cash. I found a flyable lunar lander in that area, but itcost L$1,200. Even though that was less than US $5.00, schools can't pay for that kind of stuff.

    You mentioned meeting musicians on SL. But that could be done as well with skype or some other video conferencing software.

  3. I discussed the training of students in this very open environment, as well. It's so important to ensure that we lay the guide lines for all students to make sure that they understand what is going to happen when in Second Life.
    The NASA site is pretty cool and does allow students to wonder beyond the realities of a textbook. However, students wouldn't have the opportunity to fully know and understand what they are learning about without the structure from a teacher.
    I can hope that in the future years, Second Life designs a sort of "3rd Life", if you will, that has more teacher controls and allows students to have the accessibility of certain areas but not all areas in the community.

  4. I agree that it is cool to get up close to many of the areas of Second Life, especially the NASA site, experiencing a tsunami, or examining the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. This has the potential of hooking our students to topics that they may never have any interest in had they not been able to travel in Second Life. Like most teachers, though, I hesitant to use Second Life until I am confident I will be able to keep the students out of the areas like "Tombstone". Perhaps in the near future, Second Life will develop an educational version suitable for use with middle schoolers. Until then, I will continue to play around in Second Life myself. After all, I am still learning too!