I thoroughly enjoyed reading Stephen Downes’ article on E-learning and MOOCs. It was a trip down memory lane for me. I had forgotten how amazing the personal computer was at that time, and that mail-merge was a radical concept. I was also happy to finally find out what “SCORM” was (this is often referenced in Virtual Virginia). For my research item, I chose Second Life. I had heard of it, but did not know any details about it. I found out the following:
- Started in 2003, it’s a FREE 3D virtual world
- Up to 1 million users by 2013!!!
- Its creators do not classify it as a game. Users have an avatar, and they interact with other individuals. Users can build items, buy and sell their creations, and can explore the various worlds.
- Users must be at least 16 (younger students aged 13-15 can use a special area if sponsored by a teacher)
- While it is free to join the world, there is an online currency (Linden dollars) that is necessary to purchase items in the virtual world.
- While many use Second Life purely for entertainment, companies and educational institutions can set up special areas for training, data simulation/exchange, and research. SLATE (Second Life Aided Training and Education) is used by many institutions, including Virginia Tech.
I can see how Second Life could be a very powerful educational tool, especially with distance learning. The worlds are visually intense, and the creation tools would allow you to interact in ways mimicking a real classroom. I also have some concerns. For some personalities, these virtual worlds could become more important than their real world. And there are definitely areas of Second Life that are “rated M for mature audiences”. To use this for a high school audience, I would have to make sure I was able to keep the students in “safe” areas.
A few questions for the group – have any of you had experience with using Second Life? Did you like it? Did you spend large amounts of time there without realizing how long you had been there? And finally, does anyone ever have an unattractive avatar?
Happy weekend to all!