The Potential of Second Life

As I think about my last post about Second Life, I feel that I’ve made a pessimistic argument that is perhaps brought about mostly by my frustrations with the technology.  The truth is that there is great potential for Second Life to provide very intense learning experiences in a variety of educational settings.  The more that I read, the more that I am reminded of these possibilities.

I have stated that I am somewhat skeptical of the educational value of touring students through places in Second Life.  Again there are some very interesting places to visit, but I am not convinced that the outcome of such visits is any more than playing, and achieving a sense of the ‘coolness’ of the ‘game’.   The ‘touring’ value of Teen Second Life is likely not as great as the adult grid, as many of the best place to visit only exist in the adult world.

I am starting to realize that perhaps the greatest educational potential that Second Life has to offer is in building.   Projects like the Regina Public Schools’ Grade 8 Culture Project in SL, and the recreation of Batoche in SL are excellent examples of this potential being actualized in real and valid learning experiences.  In these examples, the students have done the building in SL on the teen grid (TSL).  In the example of the Batoche project, a class visited Batoche in northern Saskatchewan, took a large number of photographs, and then recreated a virtual version of Batoche in Second Life.  I cannot imagine a greater demonstration of learning.  Students would have a true spatial understanding of a place after creating it virtually in 3-dimensions.

Second Life creator Robbie Dingo (real life Rob W.) has created a masterpiece with his 3-dimensional recreation of Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Starry Night.  

It is in the design element that this technology offers that I see the most potential for valuable learning experiences.  Garnett Gleim told me about a drama educator from Australia who used Second Life to create and record a virtual production of the play they were studying.  The class designed the stage, the costumes, the lighting, the camera angles, everything.  They rehearsed and performed their play in their virtual world and made a video recording of the performance.  And after all this, they performed the play in real life, to a real audience.  Doesn’t this sound like real learning in a virtual space?    These are the type of projects that excite me about Second Life.   They excite me, and they scare me.  I’m afraid of jumping in and finding myself ‘in over my head’.  As you can imagine, such projects must take an immense amount of time.  The Australian Drama project was likely the better portion of a semester, and I can scarcely imagine the number of hours Robbie Dingo puts into his creations.   I can, however, imagine a variety of projects like this that could benefit students in my visual art courses.  And so it is with this apprehension that I move forward with my exploration of Second Life.   Now I need to learn how to build.

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2 Responses

  1. There is so much richness in the applications of Second Life, this is a great to read. I loved the beautiful Van Gogh Starry Night, and yes the capacity for recreation is great.
    There is also tremendous application in Musuems; both The Dresden Gallery Art Museum in Germany and The Exploratorium from San Francisco are in Second Life, and well worth a look.
    The 1st Question, which is the weekly science quiz show I helm is a marvelous way of learning – it is completely “lean Forward & Engage!”
    For entertainment and media, I hope you have a look at the ways I have been using Second Life.
    Great Post and look forward to more.

  2. Ryan,

    I found a couple of links you might want to explore.
    Dean Groom has a lot of interesting stuff here. This is just one blog entry, but worth a scan for more.
    http://deangroom.wordpress.com/2009/10/18/story-quest/
    This is one of the sites he references:
    http://jokaydia.com/2009/10/14/jokaydias-edumeet-story-quest-this-week/
    Watching the Uncle D video is a good example of showing some of the capacity SL has for storytelling.

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