Scope For The Imagination: Learning Spaces in Second Life
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Scope For The Imagination: Learning Spaces in Second Life

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Talk on what a virtual campus should do and be, given at UM Dearborn 50th anniversary "Mixed reality" event, presented by the Department of Language, Culture, and Communication: ...

Talk on what a virtual campus should do and be, given at UM Dearborn 50th anniversary "Mixed reality" event, presented by the Department of Language, Culture, and Communication:
Campus Past and Campus Future: Legacy and Imagination

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  • There has been a lot of hype about SL for education, and the predictable disappointment when SL turns out not to be as good at certain things as the tools that were designed for them.  SL is very poor “courseware”, when what you want it to do exactly what courseware does. If what you want to do is hand out and collect written assignments, push information out to students, and track group participation, CTools (Blackboard, Moodle, etc) is a much better choice. So what *does* SL do well? One way you can learn about what Sl does well is by watching what people use it for, the expert users who are there because they choose to be  SL is good at promoting  a sense of being somewhere – of making locales feel real That was one of the first things I noticed about SL SL is good at *places*, and contains the tools to make places vivid and memorable and meaningful. What does the environment tell you? What is it that happens here?
  • What does the environment tell you? What book is being discussed here? It’s an immediate identification. SL is good at embodying iconography, of using symbols and props to telegraph meaning.
  • SL has a rich set of tools and materials for inventing yourself, tools built in by the designers of the software, and materials created by residents. Everyone engages in a kind of bricolage, in SL, putting together their appearance. In any circumstances, you “prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet”, but in SL, which privileges the visual, this becomes a sovereign way of announcing who you are. And, because the tools are to hand, you're not confined to one "presence" - you can experiment with being various people, various sorts of people. This us useful, for instance, for getting students to think about identity.
  • Putting all that together, one thing SL does very well is providing a Place which gives us a context to interact as our constructed selves
  • How to turn that to the end of learning? Well, one way is to leverage the sense of contact with others in environment context for learning = environments that make you engage = environments that make you feel like you know where you are and what’s called for, or what’s possible there
  • Another example of environments that make you feel like you know where you are..... It's clear what goes with this....colored rock and promenades along the harbor imagine giving students an assignment to read a Victorian novel that takes place at the seaside, and then use the descriptions in it to build the environment - a singular way of getting them to pay attention to the setting of the work Bears repeating: context for learning = environments that make you engage = environments that make you feel like you know where you are.....
  • Lesson drawn from Ann of Green Gables Ann is a dreamy child, and is always talking about what provides scope for the imagination There is some doubt in her environment, the small Prince Edward Island community of Avonlea, as to whether "that imagination of hers" will allow her to be a proper scholar in the local school. In fact, her imagination, or some quality of mind associated with it -- quickness of perception, sensitivity to impressions, a general mental liveliness - makes her not only a very good pupil but, in time, a good teacher.
  • I bring this up because SL, as an environment, provides a vast deal of scope for the imagination, and I want to consider with you what that means for SL as an educational venue. We want students to use their judgment and to be diligent, of course, but we also want then to use their imaginations, to become engaged, to take initiative in learning. What should a virtual campus offer, in order to promote learning?   How can a campus environment engage the creative faculties? context for learning = environments that make you engage = environments that make you feel like you know where you are..... All this makes much more sense when you think of SL as a world, as its expert users do, rather than as, say, a platform for delivering services I think the fact that SL users talk about being “in-world” is very important to pay attention to Treating SL as a world, experiencing it as a world, lets SL do what it’s good at.
  • context for learning = environments that make you engage = environments that make you feel like you know where you are..... I looked at this build and said, ah…a place for cultural events….talks, tours, discussions
  • Discussion group, Many to Many communication
  • What happens here? One-to-Many communication A virtual campus should have clear reference points - it should use readily understood symbols and icons to tell the student that this *is* a campus, that this is a place to work and to engage with others as part of a learning community.  When I say "readily understood symbols and icons" you should understand that everything one encounters in SL is to some extent a symbol or an icon. So it should be recognizable as a campus, it should set the stage, and orient the user. This is particularly useful for students new to virtual worlds, it gives them some grounding in what can be a dizzyingly strange environment.
  • But it shouldn't stop there. Recreating RL certainly doesn't offer enough scope for the imagination.  One of the most vibrant artistic communities in SL takes as its rallying cry "Not Possible in Real Life."  They make beautiful, interesting, and sometimes literally fabulous things.  Their work is so successful, in part, because they conceive their work in SL's own terms, as though they do their imagining in SL...they don't do it in RLL and then decide to build it in SL. So their creations work with, and in, the environment and this is exactly the kind of thing students should also be exposed to - things that diverge from the metaphor of the physical world, that escape from the conventions of gravity, buildings with doors and roofs, objects you can't walk through.
  • SL doesn't reward passivity. The whole idea of using an immersive environment to, for instance, “Deliver education” is slightly awry. My experience is that the people who are the happiest here are the "makers" - whether they make simulations or buildings, or conduct book discussions, or institute church services. 
  • SL is good at encouraging and accomadating informal learning - learning by doing, and acquiring new skills as you need them for a project In my opinion, the best thing you can do for students here is  to use SL as a world to get students enthused about SL as a tool for making art, making literature, making environments, making things that one way or another speak to those who encounter them. Then give them the tools and training and the space to build some of those things. That's my take on how to have a successful virtual campus.

Transcript

  • 1. Scope for the Imagination Learning Spaces in Second Life Campus Past and Campus Future: Legacy and Imagination
  • 2. Immersion Sense of place Campus Past and Campus Future: Legacy and Imagination What Second Life is good at
  • 3. What Second Life is good at Icons Campus Past and Campus Future: Legacy and Imagination
  • 4. Presentation of the constructed self Campus Past and Campus Future: Legacy and Imagination What Second Life is good at
  • 5. Engagement Campus Past and Campus Future: Legacy and Imagination What Second Life is good at
  • 6. What happens here? Campus Past and Campus Future: Legacy and Imagination
  • 7. What happens here? Campus Past and Campus Future: Legacy and Imagination
  • 8. Three Annes Campus Past and Campus Future: Legacy and Imagination Bookbinder’s Ball
  • 9. Scope for the Imagination “ In-world” Campus Past and Campus Future: Legacy and Imagination
  • 10. What happens here? Campus Past and Campus Future: Legacy and Imagination
  • 11. What happens here? Campus Past and Campus Future: Legacy and Imagination
  • 12. Campus Past and Campus Future: Legacy and Imagination What happens here?
  • 13. Scope for the Imagination Campus Past and Campus Future: Legacy and Imagination
  • 14. Tools and Encouragement Space for “ What if I….?” Campus Past and Campus Future: Legacy and Imagination
  • 15. Formal and informal learning Campus Past and Campus Future: Legacy and Imagination Work meets play