I have tried to like Second Life and it is interesting in that a lot of time and money goes into the different creations. The complexity of the design is fascinating to me but to be honest I get bored very quickly. I would rather chat or visit a forum if talking to people is the goal and it seems to use a lot of resources on my MacBook. That said I can see how students might enjoy it as a learning interface just because they are the avatar, chat, video gaming generation. I’m afraid that students would get caught up more in creating and dressing their avatars more than they would spend the time learning.
I keep coming back to technology should make things easier and it seems to me like this is more an example of making things more time consuming. I also have some reservations about the amount of money that changes hands. I will continue to check it out from time to time just in case I am absolutely wrong.
In the meantime there are some resources if you want to try things out yourself. The first is a forum for educators. You can sign up and receive emails about educational activities and places to go in Second Life.
There is an area strictly for teens on Second Life – the only adults that are allowed on there must be able to prove they are teachers. When a youth turns 18 they leave the teen area forever and are moved to the main “grid” There is a blog article and video here about a popular youth and her last day in teen life. The participants were on actually crying on skype and at the end the sunsets and the girl just disappears. Very dramatic video and shows how involved the kids are in this virtual world. The video actually ends like a funeral and the last frame has the girls name and dates like a memorial.
There is a video overview by the New media Consortium here and a blog (SecondLifeInsider) with article about the financial aspect as well as everything Second Life.
I found a comment response on a blog asking about Teen Second Life responses to the Virginia Tech shooting and felt that this was a positive way to utilize Second Life – as an outlet and empowering experience for the participants. The suggestions ranged from a workshop on teen violence to an area set aside for kids to place their creations like pictures, letters, and cards and even a suggestion of a t-shirt creation contest where they could purchase the t-shirts for their avatars and the money would go to a Virginia Tech charity. This was on the blog for the Global Kids Media Initiative.
I ran across a new word machinima which is actually a blend of machine and cinema and pertains to machine animation or productions created from using computer generated imagery usually on PCs. The video of the youth leaving teen life for the main grid is an example of machinima.
Some educational applications include:
“The ability to build 3-D objects collaboratively and in real time with others in the same world has enormous potential for teaching building, design, and art principles. Because Second Life is a rough simulation of the natural world, with meteorological and gravitational systems, the possibilities of experimenting with natural and physical sciences are endless. Meanwhile, the ability to interact with people from all over the globe enables political and cultural exchange and research in a safe and controlled environment.”
(from the School of Second Life Blog)Moodle and Second Life have mashed together an online learning system that incorporates both of them called sloodle which allows students to post to a blog directly from within Second Life. There seem to be courses you can enroll in but you have to sign in to see them.
I have rambled in this post and tried to give a balanced list of places you can go to learn about Second Life and education for yourself. It will be interesting to see what happens with Second Life in the future but for the time being I say it’s a nice place for a short visit but I don’t think I’d want to live there. I have enough trouble trying to balance everything in RL which is real life in SL speak.