Posts Tagged 'Second Life'

My recommendations for getting started in Second Life

I found a Blackboard booth… ironic isn’t it?

If you combined Second Life with Blackboard, you’d get… anyone, anyone?

Our experiences with blackboard have been somewhat limited. Their communication and chat tools didn’t work very well. There system seems fine for people who only want to communicate via e-mail or forum, but that is so 1990’s. I found it interesting that they had a booth presence in Second Life.

Well, on the other hand, it’s good to know that Blackboard is at least aware of Second Life.

Blackboard booth in Second Life

So far in my exploration of Second Life I’ve come the following conclusions about introducing or applying Second Life for educational purposes:

1. Makes sure initial participation is voluntary - the learning curve on Second Life is so high that it will frustrate even those with moderate tech savvy abilities. Draw in the people who are really curious and motivated to use it first. Grow this group of people as SL experts and mentors.  Still, encourage all folks to try… just because something is ‘hard to do’ doesn’t mean that it isn’t worth while.

2. Teach students how to teleport to a location – give them initial instructions on how to get to the first meeting point.

3. Provide interesting orientation activities - take a field trip as a group in the “NMC Orientation” to learn the basics of moving, talking, using inventory, changing appearance, etc. As a leader you can provide a walk through tour of the orientation area (just to show students where everything is). But you should also encourage students to return and practice some of the things on their own. You can even set up a task list of things that participants need to complete by week 1, etc. Also have appointed meeting times in SL so participants can interact with each other and even share what they’ve learned or made.

4. Participate socially - attend live learning events in SL through the SLED calendar. The best part of Second Life is interacting with other SL inhabitants and even learning from them.

5. Encourage students to share their learning with each other – Second Life and the tool interface is so complex that one person can’t effectively and quickly learn all the features. If learners share what they’ve learned with each other they can ramp up quickly.

I would love to set up a social learning group in SL that focuses on how to communicate and build things. I’m thinking I can get a few people to do this. I’d even be willing to help orient some people on how to use the features and tools.

One thing, that sort of perturbs me is the land costs. From what I’ve read, land costs in SL have grown because of speculation. Crazy isn’t it? I guess virtual ain’t free.

Second Life Events for Educators

Bunny Kiwitz at the Sloodle 101 class

If you’re interested in learning more about Second Life or how to use if for educational purposes, I suggest you take a look at this calendar: http://sledevents.blogspot.com/
Many events are listed here and even have slurls (secondlife link locations) that allow you to teleport directly to the site in SL. Remember, you have to have the SL application installed, and you can get that from the Second Life official website.

I was able to attend most of the Sloodle 101 class (that occurs every Wednesday 2x a day). I highly recommend it. Hopefully, I’ll have time in the next few days to blog about my experience in the class.


Taking Second Life One Step at a Time

I’m finding that it’s easier for me to take SL and learning about it in small doses. It gives me the opportunity to focus on mastering a few things at a time. Even with the great tutorials and orientation available though the NMC (New Media Consortium) walk you through the process step by step. There’s so much to learn at first that it’s really best to focus on mastering a few things at a time (for me that’s about 1 hour at a time).

I sort of took a big leap there in one of my first trips and before I knew it I was wandering around a simulated Moroccan marketplace… from the NMC Educational center. Crazy! I flew around Morocco, giving myself a bad case of motion sickness in the process. I really should have spent more time wandering around the NMC area before jumping out there. I spent quite a bit of time trying to get back to where I started. Since then, I’ve been trying to take baby steps. I went back to the NMC education area and found both the menu for educational landmarks as well as the building where you can get free clothes and goodies.

My avatar in the Literature Alive learning spaceI’ve been gradually learning how to do the following things:

  • how to maneuver, fly around and teleport.
  • how to use the chat
  • I changed my clothing, appearance, etc.
  • how to manage my inventory
  • how to ‘buy’ things or get them for free.
  • how to build a prim or primitive (object)
  • basic “rezzing” or shaping of objects (believe me, I’m no wiz at this yet. I’m still struggling with just basic manipulation and application of textures.

I also discovered that the trick to not getting so nauseated in SL is to stay still whenever possible. Move only when you have to. It’s also good to spend some time learning about your environment by clicking on things or reading the notecards that might be present. It’s really sort of strange because I’ve noticed that there are a number of people in SL who seem to be standing still “in their own universes.” This is especially true of most of the “learning spaces” or museum type exhibits. People are taking the time to learn so it seems like their trapped in their own little bubbles. I guess if you think of many Second Life areas as museums it doesn’t seem like such an alien world.

Me in the \

Me learning how to do simple ‘rezzing’ at the Tower of Primitives.

The Tower of Primitives offers a pretty interesting tutorial on how to develop your own shapes and objects in SL. I actually found that it was easier to play with the object creation features on my own, while sometimes referencing the diagrams and displays rather than reading through the texts or notecards. Perhaps that’s because I’m a hands on learner. After ‘walking through’ most of the exhibit I was able to create simple objects such as cubes, cylinders, and spheres, and I was able to apply texture to these objects. I could also make some objects hollow.

I believe that if you go to the “Map” in your controls and type “Tower of Primitives” in the search you can find the landmark location for this helpful learning space. Just click the “Teleport” button and you’ll find yourself outside the tower. Make sure to follow the ‘red arrows’ to get into the building. I spent sometime wandering around outside before I got in.

Resources:

Second Life – Where you can download the SL environment application and learn all about Second Life.

NMC Campus Observer – Site for the New Media Consortium’s information on their NMC Campus.

I finally got a Second Life


Now how the hell do I get down… I’m stuck flying, suspended in the air. (okay… I figured it out… click the Fly/Stop Flying button).

My first avatar in Second Life

My avatar, Bunny Kiwitz, suspended in the air at the “Pier of Culture.”
All I need is an umbrella and a carpet bag.

NMC second life orientation plaza

My avatar, in the Second Life Orientation Plaza with her new ‘outfit.’

Thanks to the TCC conference I was able to get my first taste of Second Life. I’m not fully hooked yet, but intrigued and I see the range of possibilities in here. I can now see what they meant by “steep learning curve” when it comes to learning how to be proficient in S.L. I unknowingly hit the “fly” button and couldn’t figure out how to get down. Also there are so many features and controls to work with that I found it a bit hard to get my bearings. Fortunately, the NMC tutorial ‘plaza’ allowed me to walk through a ‘museum of exhibits’ that showed me how to become familiar with the controls and features in Second Life. I was also able to learn a few things about how to integrate into “Second Life Culture,” such as how to use gestures and how to properly chat with people in a group.

Bunny the avatar learns how to communicate in SL

During the conference I also attended a lecture/debate on the popularity and future of Second Life. One of the arguments in support of Second Life as a learning environment was that today’s students interact with and process information much differently than their predecessors. Second Life give them the opportunity to access it in a virtual space as well as interact with peers from all over the globe. These “Digital Natives” expect instant access to information and rely on social networking to get and build information. They have a ‘digital literacy’ because they’ve been raised with interactive technology that we “Digital Immigrants” need to be aware of.

Second Life allows participants to actively build both simulated and fantasy models and interact with these models. It stimulates creativity and promotes simulated learning of real-life scenarios. It provides students with the ability to engage in “situated learning” and as the one lecturer quoted, “work together to create a shared understanding that none have previously possessed.”

The half of this lecture that countered the support for SL, argued that the learning curve for Second Life is so steep that it’s just too frustrating for some learners. They also made the argument that subscriptions to the virtual world are dwindling and that people enter and experiment but they do not stay or continue to return. Second Life is merely another techie fad that will eventually become obscure and dated in the wake of progress.

Another point that this person brought up was that all the businesses that invested in real estate in Second Life are now pulling out. Personally, I think that the failure is due to the fact that they took a rather two dimensional approach to applying SL. They simply used it as only a virtual store. How boring! They could have developed an interactive storyline or even learning material around their products, and, oh yes, they could have given more free stuff. Free stuff always hooks people even if it’s free ‘virtual’ stuff.

I have this theory about these new virtual/simulated environments… that is when we (or most of us who are not digital protoges) become immersed in them our first instinct is not to create new and innovative things. We build what’s most familiar to us. In all fairness to the corporate businesses, they were in a hurry (as they always are) to get a piece of the Second Life action so they hastily constructed what they thought would work.

I believe that both sides of this debate brought up valid points. Though I’m becoming convinced that Second Life does provide participants with the opportunity to learn in a rich and interactive environment. Perhaps in the future it will become easier to learn and use.

I was going for the one piece tracksuit thing… maybe not my style but, oh well.


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