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Posts Tagged ‘second life


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First came news of Kinect hacks for controlling personal computers. Then there was information about playing World of Warcraft with the Kinect.

So it’s no real surprise that someone is experimenting with Second Life. It takes personification to another level.

I wasn’t too surprised when I read rumours that the Second Life (SL) office in Singapore was closing and that Linden Lab was scaling down internationally. The local press confirmed the Singapore office’s demise soon after.

Virtual environments (VEs) are about a dime a dozen. In that case, you’d have about 60 to 70 cents. But SL is the shiniest coin and the news does not bode well for VEs as a whole.

A colleague recently told me about Open Wonderland. It does not have the sheen of SL, but apparently you can build content with Google Sketchup.


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I don’t know if VEs will be ever be prominent in education. For one thing, most people do not see the point of being in a VE when real life will do. For another, when searching online for example, what they do in 2D is difficult enough without another dimension complicating things.

That is why I think that VEs should not be used to mirror real life (this is what I consider level 1 use). Instead, we should aspire to higher level use. Level 2 use might include visiting environments that one cannot experience in real life without losing your life (e.g., a tsunami or the inside of an active nuclear reactor) or ones that you cannot visit at all (the inside of a leaf or a DNA molecule).

Level 3 use could literally build on level 2. This is where users are creators of content. They are the ones actually building these level 2 environments in a collaborative manner.

Level 3 could be challenging for students and teachers alike.

First imagine having to learn about volcanoes the traditional way. There is information in the textbook and perhaps a video to watch and a paper mâché model to build.

Now imagine telling students to build a working simulation of the Icelandic volcano so that it works just like one in real life. Students need to learn much about Geography and the building tool. They need to plan, coordinate, communicate and compromise. They will do in school what they will eventually need to do at work.

The traditional method prepares students for exams. The other method arguably prepares them for the exam of life. Somehow we prioritize the former and not the latter.

Warren Sheaffer of Saint Paul College offers a course called Second Life Basics. This is part of a certificate for its Computer Information Systems Technology programme [article].

Here are some choice quotes that I extracted from the article:

We’re challenging the whole notion of concrete, sequential learning by offering a rich learning environment that allows students to communicate with remote learners and experiment in virtual worlds.

We’ve found that, in the case of (physically or economically) disadvantaged students this immersive technology can become enabling. If you can’t get someplace physically, you can get there virtually.

We are dealing with a generation of students who have been raised as ‘digital natives’ —  they have worked in a digital environment their entire lives. With ‘paper and pencil’ faculty trying to teach digital natives there is often a disconnect, but this technology bridges that gap.

I give an introduction on Second Life to my teacher trainees as part of the ICT course that I facilitate, but this article got me thinking about directions we in NIE might head into.

When I taught an ICT course at a college in the USA, some preservice teachers told me that they had specialisations in certain fields. Not curricular specialisations, mind you, but special emphasis areas like technology.

With MOE wanting schools to have senior teachers or specialist teachers who can float between schools and/or conduct professional development within a school, I think that it might be time for us to revisit the idea of offering teaching diplomas with specialist areas like special needs or educational technology.

This was recently featured in the Straits Times.

sl_not_a_game

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Second Life (SL) is not a game. There are no levels to go through, points to get, or game bosses to kill. It is a multi-user virtual environment (MUVE).

There are MUVE games like World of Warcraft, but SL is not a game. As its name implies, SL is another life you can live. It can be as mundane or as exciting as you want it to be. You can recreate your existing life or live out a fantasy. If you wish to create a game-like environment, you can. But SL is not a game in itself. It is a virtual space to create and collaborate.

Newspapers do a disservice by spreading this sort of misinformation. Label SL a game and other layperson perceptions creep in: Violence, addiction, anti-social behaviour, no educational value, time-wasting, etc. This could not be further from practice. Half the battle to win the minds of an overly critical but ignorant public is lost.

This is one reason why I include SL and other 21st century learning environments in the ICT course that I facilitate. I offer a Prezi presentation on educational SL to any and all who are interested. But the best thing you can do is get a SL avatar, try it out for yourself and read about the powerful things that people are doing with it to promote meaningful learning.

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The Straits Times online reported how anyone in the world can visit Singapore’s Orchard Road from Aug 9. It’s no coincidence that Aug 9 is also our National Day.

As the ST link will not last long, I am providing links to SG Entrepreneurs which has its own take on it, and to the blog of the provider of the virtual space, Twinity.

Unlike Second Life (SL), Twinity aims to mirror actual places. While you can also do this in SL, the point of SL is being able to think and create outside this box.

Nonetheless, I think that there is a place for providers like Twinity. Folks who might argue that they would rather visit the real Orchard Road are missing the point. The virtual Orchard Road is not targetted at them primarily. Think of Singaporeans abroad or potential visitors of Singapore, folks who cannot leave home for various reasons, people who would rather shop virtually… the list goes on.

While virtual Orchard Road seems to have been designed for commercial purposes, I think this example has lessons for us in education: 1) just because you can do something with technology does not mean you should, 2) you must understand the needs of your audience, 3) you must know the affordances of the technology, and 4) the use of technology should be meaningful to your audience.

iknow-magazine-issue-13I introduced readers to Second Life in my third article (pp. 26-27) as a guest writer for iknow magazine.


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