Second Life in Education


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An introduction to Second Life in education.

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  • Interestingly, most of the students saw some benefit and usefulness to a virtual world like Second Life as an educational tool, but many pointed out problems and pitfalls with SL as well. Even those who were “comfortable” with gaming and technology found themselves feeling leery of the other people they met in the virtual world, whether those people were on educational islands or not They seemed to judge people on the appearance of their avatars much more than what those people had to say to them – case in point, during class one night we all got into the virtual world together, and one student came across a person on the ISTE island who seemed to know a great deal about SL, and was more than happy to accommodate my student who confessed he didn’t know much about SL and wanted to learn. The new friend took everyone on a guided tour of the Vassar College island, where representations of the campus as well as the Sistine Chapel and some other interesting architecture and art have been created, and are all open to the public. There is a lot to see and do on Vassar actually, but it was interesting to me that my students were still somewhat apprehensive about this person, who was taking the time to help them and answer their questions. His avatar was dressed a bit strangely, resembling a harlequin, and his username was Filmmaker Movies, and they all seemed to think that he was generally a bit “weird.” It took some convincing in the first place to get them to really take advantage of this person trying to help them out and answer their questions – some were quite shy to converse with him, even though they were all hiding behind their own avatars! Interestingly, all of my students spent a good portion of their class time with Second Life updating their avatars! Something they noticed: economics, collaboration tool, museums, travel industry, campus tours, foreign language learning, different people representing themselves in different ways, “strange” people, dealing with having enough time for one life, let alone two!, accepting that people enjoy spending their time in a place like SL instead of in “real life” A social place, a place for exploration, a place where anything is possible and things can be created, manipulated, reinvented, etc. “ More fun to talk to a person rather than type to a computer screen” “ Great that you can’t ‘die’ like in other video games – takes the fear away for people who don’t play games much or don’t play all that well!” One student mentioned the issue of “fitting in” in different places and how SL allows for avatar customization to the point that you can easily make yourself fit into a setting, but you are still sort of “following the herd” as you might in real life doing this; so, socially there are two ways to approach this and look at it Moving around and interacting was sometimes difficult for some of the students – some expected that it should be easier to manipulate than it was, and others expected that their avatars should be able to do more than they actually can Technical issue of bandwidth and waiting for things to load, or freezing entirely, was mentioned by most of the students and it seems that this is a bit of a resource-hog; people with older machines and slower connections will not get nearly the same enjoyable experience One student watched a virtual wedding on a virtual yacht – she said the experience was rather surreal but fun – a neat way to participate in SL and she really felt part of the “family” even though no one was there was likely related or even know who each other really was I found it interesting that the elementary school teacher was one of the people most taken by SL and the possibilities it had to offer. A self-professed non-gamer, she found it very personally enriching to explore the different lands, to participate socially and to express herself through her avatar. She saw the tremendous potential for discovery learning, although she did not think this particular tool would work well for her second graders. She was interested in finding something similar for such young children. ??         SL ideas Vassar College – tour, Sistine Chapel, library etc.   Disabilities:   This has been a very important concern of mine for over a year. At last fall's WCET conference (a national organization of educators who use technology) I asked the same question during a demo of SL. I also hosted a breakfast round table discussion where I asked this of those who sat with me. The answers were consistent; no one has found a good solution to this problem. I do not like to be too negative, but I strongly discourage our faculty from using SL as a significant part (read: required) of their classes since that could lead to a very ugly lawsuit and OCR action.   I suppose if a class were only advertised within the SL environment then you wouldn't have the compliance problem since the only students who would see the class announcement would already be in-world. However, to ask a group of students in a face-to-face environment to do a part of their class in SL would seem to be tempting fate (so to speak).   I've done a great deal of thinking about this issue and the only solutions I can dream up (though I am admittedly rather slow) are as follows:   Visually Impaired: This student would need a "helper" student who could actually do the navigation within SL and describe the environment for the student. This would be similar to a student using a seeing-eye dog to get to a physical class. However, the question would certainly come up among the faculty as to which student is actually doing the work.   Hearing Impaired: This student can be accommodated as long as the class is not using oral communication. It is certainly possible to use only text chat or IM to conduct class, and the hearing impaired student would do nicely in that environment.   Mobility Impaired: Depending on the exact nature of the impairment, this student may be able to navigate OK. However, it's also possible that the student would need a helper to do the navigation in-world. I knew one student with severe rheumatoid arthritis and simply moving a mouse was very painful for her; SL would be beyond her ability.   Learning Disabled: This is the trickiest area since there are such a wide variety of these disabilities and their impact on SL participation would be equally broad. A student with some sort of mild disorder may be fine in SL (in fact, may even be more capable in SL than RL). Other disabilities, though, could be much more challenging in SL.   In short, you need to be very careful about using SL as a required supplement to a RL class. Please do not misunderstand me; I really like SL and spend as many hours as I can every week in-world. However, SL requires heavy thought before it's used in a class.   Just my 2L...   --Wissen Shepherd   I'm supporting a dyslexic learner in SL with great results. I've worked with hearing impaired people and mute people, and I'm hearing impaired myself. It's great. I was talking to someone who works with autistic people and stroke survivors earlier, and whilst they're also a huge range of intensities and impacts under a few simple words, those with learning difficulties seem to manage. I know I work with 2 RL 17 year old autistic learners, and I'd love to be able to work in SL with them, but the hoops to get us there are too big at the moment.   Visually impaired depends on the visual impairment. I have Irlen syndrome (funny reactions to bright light) and photo-triggered migraines. SL with some tweaking of colour of text etc. works just fine for me thank you. I do agree if you have students that impaired enough to need a seeing eye dog etc. there will be severe issues, although I know people with cataracts that use SL successfully, so you can be quite impaired and still use it successfully.   Past that, I think the issue becomes one of cultural differences - in the UK a blind student would be given support, and given financial support for this support worker. They would be able to describe a scene etc. in SL, probably, although I have to say I've not done this, nor seen it done. From what I understand of the US, the system is rather harsher - on both sides. You MUST offer the course (we can say you can't enroll because there is no reasonable adjustment that can be made, although we may be asked to justify that in court in theory and practise) but your students with disabilities get no central support to help them cope with learning around their disability I believe.   Given that absolute onus laid on you, how do your IT departments cope? What tools and modifications do they use for blind students? For other students who can't handle a normal mouse and so on? I would guess a lot of those tools and tricks might help with SL.   El.  
  • Second Life in Education

    1. 1. Exploring Second Life as an Instructional Tool Staci Trekles Milligan Clinical Assistant Professor School of Education, Dept. of Graduate Studies Purdue University Calumet
    2. 2. Overview <ul><li>What is a virtual world? </li></ul><ul><li>Social Learning and Collaboration in Virtual Worlds </li></ul><ul><li>Why Second Life ? </li></ul><ul><li>Explorations with Real Students </li></ul><ul><li>Potential Uses of Second Life for Instruction </li></ul><ul><li>Potential Pitfalls and Problems </li></ul><ul><li>Resources and References </li></ul>
    3. 3. What is a virtual world? <ul><li>A virtual world is like a game, but there is no story or set rules </li></ul><ul><li>Instead, it is more of a place for open roaming, socializing, exploration, and building </li></ul><ul><li>Users take control of an avatar to interact within the space, which is usually a vast 3D landscape </li></ul><ul><li>Some virtual worlds available today: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Second Life ( ) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li> ( ) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Whyville (for teens; ) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>ActiveWorlds ( ) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>QuestAtlantis (for kids; ) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>EntropiaUniverse ( ) </li></ul></ul>
    4. 4. Avatars <ul><li>Avatar : A digital representation of yourself; this is the “character” that you control in the virtual world </li></ul><ul><li>The term comes from Hindu mythology, as the name for a temporary body used by the gods when they visit Earth </li></ul><ul><li>Was a term first applied to computer representations of the self in 1985 </li></ul>
    5. 5. Imagine… <ul><li>Virtual field trips </li></ul><ul><li>Model and systems analysis </li></ul><ul><li>Meeting with colleagues/students and having meaningful dialogue with body language and visual aides – without leaving home or office! </li></ul>
    6. 6. Social Learning and Collaboration <ul><li>Many of us already know the power of social learning, both informal and formal </li></ul><ul><li>Virtual worlds offer terrific opportunities for teamwork and collaboration that go beyond the everyday, and beyond campus walls </li></ul><ul><li>For example, watch this demonstration of NASA’s CoLab Mission in Second Life: </li></ul>
    7. 7. Why Second Life ? <ul><li>Second Life is by far the most popular digital world available today </li></ul><ul><li>Millions of people “inhabit” Second Life, and there are literally thousands of different “islands” to visit within the Second Life landscape </li></ul><ul><li>Fully 3D and highly interactive, you can not only meet with others but you can also purchase, create, and manipulate anything you can imagine </li></ul><ul><li>Built-in advanced scripting language allows for unlimited flexibility, and many developers already have interesting resources available freely </li></ul><ul><li>Example of this is “Sloodle”: </li></ul><ul><li>Sloodle merges Moodle CMS with Second Life for an interactive classroom experience </li></ul>
    8. 8. Structure of Second Life (SL) <ul><li>Consists of “islands” that you can teleport between at will </li></ul><ul><li>Residents (members) can join groups, which may give them access to new things or events </li></ul><ul><li>Islands, building, and item access can be restricted to members of certain groups, or to certain individuals </li></ul><ul><li>Currency of the world is the Linden Dollar, and Lindens can be purchased with real money at the current exchange rate (yes, it has a functional economy!) </li></ul><ul><li>Only paying members can own, buy, or sell property </li></ul><ul><li>Second Life is limited to adults 18 and over, but there is a Teen Second Life just for younger residents (no adults over 18 allowed unless it is an educational space) </li></ul>
    9. 9. Quick Travels through SL
    10. 10. Exploring Second Life in the College Classroom <ul><li>Students in my EDCI 566 (graduate – Instructional Applications of Multimedia) were asked to visit SL from an instructional perspective </li></ul><ul><li>Their task: explore as much as they wished (including a few educational sites such as ISTE Island and EdTech Island), and collect “field notes” </li></ul><ul><li>After two weeks they reported on their experiences, shared their notes, and reflected on the instructional value of SL in a discussion forum </li></ul>
    11. 11. Exploring Second Life in the College Classroom <ul><li>2 male, 4 female </li></ul><ul><li>Age range: mid-20s – mid-40s </li></ul><ul><li>Only two students were self-described “gamers” (1 male, 1 female) </li></ul><ul><li>3 of 6 have children at home who play games regularly </li></ul><ul><li>At least two women had not had much exposure to electronic gaming at all </li></ul>
    12. 12. Exploring Second Life in the College Classroom <ul><li>No one had ever spent time in Second Life prior to class, so we spent part of two different sessions exploring SL as a group </li></ul><ul><li>First session: students logged on for the first time, went through tutorial and got acclimated to the controls </li></ul><ul><li>Second session: Feeling more comfortable, they explored together </li></ul><ul><li>They eventually came across someone in-world who was willing to give a “guided tour” of Vassar Island, and answer the students’ questions about SL for a while </li></ul>
    13. 13. Vassar Island (Vassar College)
    14. 14. Student Impressions <ul><li>Most students enjoyed their time and found SL useful, but they were also quick to point out problems as well </li></ul><ul><li>Many found that moving around and controlling their avatar was a bit more difficult than expected </li></ul><ul><li>They tended to judge the people they came across in-world by appearances, and spent a lot of time updating their own appearances to match their personality </li></ul><ul><li>Some were hesitant to interact with others for fear of “creepy” people </li></ul>
    15. 15. Student Impressions <ul><li>“ A social place, a place for exploration, a place where anything is possible and things can be created, manipulated, reinvented, etc.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ More fun to talk to a person rather than type to a computer screen” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Great that you can’t ‘die’ like in other video games – takes the fear away for people who don’t play games much or don’t play all that well!” </li></ul><ul><li>One student mentioned the issue of “fitting in” and how SL allows one to easily make your appearance fit with a setting - in doing this, you are in effect “following the herd” as you might in real life, promoting less individuality </li></ul>
    16. 16. Potential Uses for Teaching and Learning <ul><li>Many ideas came up, including: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Discovery learning activities </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Virtual group/class meetings (especially when face-to-face is not possible or practical) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Teambuilding and problem solving exercises </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Sales, classroom, presentation, other interpersonal skills simulations </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Construction, math, engineering activities with building tools </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Computer science/programming with script building capabilities </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Virtual field trips (many real life locations have been re-created in Second Life) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Multicultural and sociological studies </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Foreign language learning </li></ul></ul>
    17. 17. Potential Problems <ul><li>Bandwidth – SL demands a great deal of network resource, and cannot be used well on slower connections </li></ul><ul><li>Computer speed – SL also performs best on a relatively new, fast machine; performance will be unacceptable on older systems </li></ul><ul><li>Technical issues – Occasionally things do not work as expected, such as voice chat and avatar commands </li></ul><ul><li>Screen space – the bigger the monitor, the easier it will be to play SL </li></ul>
    18. 18. Potential Problems <ul><li>Individuals with disabilities: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Vision-impaired users will be unable to use SL without assistance from another person; there is no in-world support for screen readers </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Mobility-impaired users may be able to navigate adequately depending on the nature of disability, but support for some assistive devices and voice command is likely not available </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Learning disabled users will have varying levels of success with SL as there are a lot of visual distractions in-world, and potential for frustration is high; however, some LD users may also respond extremely well </li></ul></ul>
    19. 19. Cost <ul><li>For educational institutions wishing to purchase their own space in Second Life, the price is about $837 + $147.50 monthly (see ) </li></ul><ul><li>Educators wishing to use private space cost-free for one semester can apply to Campus: Second Life ; see: </li></ul><ul><li>Many colleges already have private spaces including: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Ball State </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>IU </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Harvard </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>San Diego State </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Full list: </li></ul></ul>
    20. 20. Thank You <ul><li>Questions? Comments? More ideas for using virtual worlds in the classroom? </li></ul><ul><li>Anastasia Trekles Milligan </li></ul><ul><li>School of Education </li></ul><ul><li>Purdue University Calumet </li></ul><ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul>
    21. 21. Resources <ul><li>Second Life official site: </li></ul><ul><li>Second Life in Education wiki: </li></ul><ul><li> sites tagged with “Second Life” and “education”: </li></ul><ul><li>A full glossary of virtual world terms: </li></ul>
    22. 22. Resources <ul><li>Second Life examples for education: </li></ul><ul><li>SLURL: Browser-based linking to worlds in Second Life: </li></ul><ul><li>Sloodle Project: </li></ul><ul><li>Get a Sloodle demo site: </li></ul><ul><li>The Seven Wonders of Second Life: </li></ul><ul><li>Top 20 Educational Islands in Second Life: </li></ul>
    23. 23. References <ul><li>Brown J. S., & Adler, R. P. (2008). Minds on Fire: Open Education, the Long Tail, and Learning 2.0. EDUCAUSE Review,. 43( 1), 16–32. </li></ul><ul><li>Gee, J. P. (2003). What video games have to teach us about learning and literacy. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. </li></ul><ul><li>Gee, J. P. (2005). Learning by design: Good video games as learning machines. E-Learning, 2(1). 5-16. Retrieved July 12, 2005, from . </li></ul><ul><li>Graetz, K. A. (2006). The psychology of learning environments. In D. Oblinger (Ed.), Learning Spaces (pp. 6.1-6.14). Boulder, CO: EDUCAUSE. Retrieved July 16, 2007, from . </li></ul>
    24. 24. References <ul><li>McGee, P., & Diaz, V. (2007). Wikis and podcasts and blogs! Oh my! What is a faculty member supposed to do? EDUCAUSE Review, 42 (5), 28-41. </li></ul><ul><li>Mollman, S. (2007, July 27). Wii + Second Life = New training simulator. Wired . Retrieved September 6, 2007, from . </li></ul><ul><li>New Media Consortium (2007). The horizon report, 2007 edition. Austin, TX: New Media Consortium. Retrieved October 24, 2007, from . </li></ul><ul><li>Prensky, M. (2004). Digital game-based learning. St. Paul, MN: Paragon House. </li></ul><ul><li>Rice, J. W. (2007). New media resistance: Barriers to implementation of computer video games in the classroom. Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia, 16 (3). 249-261. </li></ul>
    25. 25. Further Reading <ul><li>Rymaszewski, M., et al. (2008). Second Life: The official guide. San Fransisco, Ca: Sybex/Wiley. </li></ul><ul><li>Weber, A., Rufer-Bach, K., & Platel, R. (2007). Creating your world: The official guide to advanced content creation for Second Life . San Francisco, CA: Sybex/Wiley. </li></ul><ul><li>v3Image (2007). A beginner’s guide to Second Life . Las Vegas, NV: ArcheBooks. </li></ul><ul><li>Heaton, J. (2007). Introduction to Linden Scripting Language for Second Life . Heaton Research, Inc. (More available at the Heaton website: ) </li></ul>