Presentation on Virtual Worlds & Second Life

Whether or not you’re a part of the class that I’m teaching on Virtual Worlds & Second Life, feel free to take a look at compilation of links that provide an Introduction to Virtual Worlds.  From Sun Microsystem’s Darkstar & Project Wonderland initatives to Second Health simulations in Second Life, this pdf and the corresponding presentation will provide an introduction to the use of online environments for learning and immersion.

SEU Campus in Second Life

I’ve been busy at building a “working draft” of our SEU Campus in Second Life.  To visit the campus, go to: http://slurl.com/secondlife/Teaching%203/27/217/24 after you have signed up for an avatar using the New Media Center’s sign-up process @ http://sl.nmc.org/join/ .

In the SEU SL space, you can find a variety of classroom environments, ranging from small-discussion, ampitheatre presentations, as well as a “traditional” classroom space.  In addition, there is an “exhibit / resource” hall, a skybox “annex” space intended for overflow or for simultaneous use of video, and a “Sandbox” area for building.

Resources currently available in the exhibit hall include Landmarks to a variety of places of interest in Second Life.  To navigate the SEU space, a teleportation system has been installed to enable easy access to all areas in the SEU space.

Second Life SLUrl’s

For those who are interested in visiting even more educational areas within Second Life, I’ve put together a list of SLUrl’s for a presentation at St. Edward’s University.  Anyone interested in joining us on a “tour” of these spaces should download the .pdf and come along!

Second Life – a general primer

One resource that may be helpful for educators interested in Second Life is to take a look at Educause’s “7 things you should know about Second Life”. This straightforward view of the impact of Second Life for educators is succinct and presents both advantages as well as disadvantages of the environment.

Another item of interest is a recent unveiling of the University of the Pacific’s campus in Second Life. The New Media Center has a great write-up on this project, as well as a video (otherwise known as machinima) that showcases the university’s goals for the space. The university’s SL location can be found by visiting: http://slurl.com/secondlife/U%20Pacific/166/141/22

Interactivity & Educational Sims

Given the rich array of resources to educator’s in Second Life (SL), I realized that some people may benefit from some pointers about ‘how’ someone can interact in SL.  Although Linden Labs offers tutorials on a range of general topics in SL, I wanted to help people see how interaction tends to work in the context of educational sims.  To do that, I constructed a tutorial walk-through of 2 educational sims: Genome Island & the Exploratorium.  This Flash-based tutorial is called: Making the Most of your Sim Walkthrough’ . The tutorial is about 10 minutes in length, and provides a walkthrough of exhibits in both sims.  The tutorial is designed to help people learn how to:

  • Use the mouse to interact with objects
  • Collect & retrieve objects from the inventory
  • Listen or view audio/video content
  • Save & retrieve locations of interest

Second Life SLurl’s

If you’re interested in visiting some interesting educational sims, SL has a handy way of referencing their addresses. Since access to SL is done via installing an application on your computer, it isn’t a web browser in the traditional sense of the term. Web browsing is possible with the SL client however, and locations within SL can be accessed with a “SLurl”. A Slurl is a link that points to a location in SL, which can be accessed via your web browser (and therefore bookmarked for later retrieval). Clicking the SLurl will prompt you to login to SL, after which point your avatar will be “teleported” to the correct destination.  I suggest taking some time to explore each sim–interact with the surroundings.  I’ll discuss interactivity a bit more in future posts, but when you run across an exhibit, or something that looks interactive, clicking these objects can give more information.  In some cases, directions will be given on what to do.  In other cases, curiosity and exploration become very useful attributes when touring SL.

Here are a few SLurls for education-oriented sims to explore in SL.

Dante’s Inferno: designed as an immersive learning tool for students:
http://slurl.com/secondlife/Dante’s%20Inferno/128/128/2

Only Yesterday: A recreation of life in a 1930’s town:
http://slurl.com/secondlife/Only%20Yesterday/104/125/35

Okapi Island in SL: OKAPI participants & Berkeley archaeologists (including students & faculty) built a sim of a prehistoric village in Catalhoyuk, Turkey:
http://slurl.com/secondlife/Okapi/128/128/0

Vassar’s Virtual Sistene Chapel:
http://slurl.com/secondlife/Vassar/200/85/27

Educational Resources for SL

Educators looking to get into Second Life may want to check out the .pdf, “An Introduction to Second Life for Educators” by Beth Knittle. It’s a great general overview of what educators can expect out of Second Life. Another great resource is the New Media Consortium (NMC)’s SL resources page. If your campus is a member of the NMC, you’ll likely also be able to use the NMC spaces for your class.

Other educator resources that may of interest include:

The Educator’s Co-Op:
http://www.educatorscoop.org

ISTEInternational Society for Technology in Education:
http://slurl.com/secondlife/ISTE%20Island/107/66/30

SLolar Central: A Second Life Scholars Google Group:
http://groups.google.com/group/slolar-central

The Metaverse – teaching & learning about technology & society:
http://trumpy.cs.elon.edu/metaverse/

101 Uses for Second Life in the College Classroom:
http://facstaff.elon.edu/mconklin/pubs/glshandout.pdf

Second Life in Education Wiki:
http://sleducation.wikispaces.com/

Second Life, Educators, & Virtual Worlds

I’ve recently had the opportunity to help a faculty member and her course with Second Life. As a result, I’ve decided to take the opportunity to compile some resources that might be helpful for folks looking to get started using Second Life as an educational tool. There are plenty of educational resources in the way of educational communities, best practices, and sims already created for Second Life. The next several posts will serve as compilation of great educational resources and educational sims worth exploring.

For those people new to Second Life, it might serve to introduce the idea that Second Life (SL) is a virtual world.

What is a virtual world? That depends on who you ask. Virtual worlds are basically computer-generated 3-D environments in which participants are represented with “avatars” that they create. Avatars can have virtual analogs of traits and objects from the physical world–although this is definitely not a fast rule.

Examples of virtual worlds can range from 3-D online games, such as the SIMs and Warcraft, to non-game communities such as There, Active Worlds, Second Life, Croquet (an open source platform), and many, many others. There are other exciting virtual communities on the horizon, such as Uni-verse and Live Place (a cinematic-quality 3-D virtual space in development by the people who brought us Myspace).

For those interested in reading further, a great “state of virtual worlds” article can be found in the 2007 New Media Center Horizon Report @ http://www.nmc.org/horizonproject/2007/virtual-worlds.

Concepts related to social bookmarking

In doing some research on social bookmarking, I came to discover connections with some interesting ideas– Folksonomy (individually constructed, but socially shared taxonomy, byThomas Vander Wal) being one example.  Here are a few others:

Connectivism:  by George Siemens – a learning theory rooted in application of learning in a network-based environment

Collective Intelligence:  by Pierre Levy – the idea that everyone knows something, no one knows everything, and that we have much to learn from each other

Strength of Weak Ties: by Mark Granovetter – the notion that there is strength–in connections and resources–that are present in those with whom we’re only weakly connected.

Social Constructivism: by L. S. Vygotysky – the idea that meaning & understanding is constructed out of social interaction

Social Bookmarking Strategies

Another good resource for social bookmarking is Social Bookmarking Strategies for Interactive Learning by Deborah Everhart & Shirley Waterhouse.  This resources is also found on Blackboard Scholar’s wiki.  Although the suggested approach was written for faculty using Blackboard Scholar, I believe the approach can work for other resources.  I would add one caveat–Blackboard allows faculty to define the tags that will be used for course searches; this is not a feature that is supported by open-source systems.

I believe there’s an opportunity to consider two approaches.  The first entails using something like Blackboard Scholar to define course tags.  The second entails a more ‘open’ approach that encourages individualized tagging.  In the first approach, an instructor can define tags by “seeding” their tag cloud with starter tags & creating (as Waterhouse & Everhart suggest) search streams based on tag combinations.  I think this is a valuable approach that can help to ‘guide’ research.

An alternative approach would be to have students attempt to find course-related information & to tag their bookmarks the way they believe makes sense.  As a follow-up, an instructor can always review student tags–or create a group assignment where students critique each other’s labels.  Either way, the student can–on their own or as a course assignment–change their tags based on feedback.  The advantage of this alternative is that it promotes the development of what VanderWal calls a “folksonomy“, while helping students to discover for themselves through reflection & critique the relevance of their approach to research information.

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