Posted March 9, 2009on:
Sometimes I wonder how I would function as an educator without the Internet to help me with resources both human and non-human.
My four classes of teacher trainees started exploring Second Life (SL) this week. Over the weekend, someone I met a few years ago by email (and only this year in person) sent me a link from NPR about a short podcast on educational SL. The timing was serendipitous! (Thanks, Carolyn!)
Like a few of the people who commented on the show, I think that the interviewee, Demers, might have oversold the possibilities of learning in SL. Why learn ballet in SL? Learning the theory and history in SL might be possible, but ultimately you have to engage in ballet kinesthetically in real life.
I firmly believe that most of the time it is pointless to recreate in SL what already exists or is more convenient in real life. Want to teach or learn principles of ecology and economy? Then you and your students should not recreate a conventional zoo but create a dinosaur zoo instead!
I liked what one commenter, Joe Essid, had to say:
My most recent students improved their analytical writing skills by using SL as a subject, but the focus remained on analysis and writing: SL was merely a new form of communication they studied. With any classroom technology, there’s a tendency to slip into euphoria for a while–then good pedagogy follows. The same is true of SL.
What makes the difference is the pedagogy that makes powerful and meaningful use of the technology. But I also see how new technologies can push pedagogy further. The affordances of SL challenge the way we teach and the way our students learn.
The problem is that we often don’t take full advantage of the affordances of new technologies. Instead, we use them in old ways or ways that we are comfortable with, and this often leads to ineffective use of that technology. Oh, wait, I have said this before and the YouTube story I linked to in that blog entry says it all.
If that does not make an impact, how about YouTube footage of the NPR host trying to get virtual coffee when he had real coffee with him?