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Using SecondLife in Graduate Courses


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Overview of initial considerations when beginning to use Second Life in a teacher education class. Includes recommendations for other faculty interested in considering Second Life or virtual, immersive platforms.

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Using SecondLife in Graduate Courses

  1. 1. E-Learn – Las Vegas, Nevada November 2008 Dr. Eileen O’Connor, [email_address] (see companion paper for more info) Updated for fall 2008 class – presented to Graduate Center through Tuesday Morning Live! on 11/4/08
  2. 2. <ul><li>Review background & need </li></ul><ul><li>Consider the course development framework & the initial implementation results  what lessons were learned </li></ul><ul><li>Visit summer 2008 class & some of fall ‘08 </li></ul><ul><li>Generate some guidelines to others venturing into SL in educational settings </li></ul><ul><li>Highlight “next steps” planned for this instructor </li></ul>
  3. 3. <ul><li>Teacher preparation and new-teacher support for high-needs schools </li></ul><ul><li>Program is largely online; these science-education courses are 100% online </li></ul><ul><li>Cohort building & peer support is a program goal </li></ul><ul><li>Need to make online environment more real and supportive </li></ul><ul><li>Need to create an immersive science experience – to improve teacher education </li></ul>
  4. 5. Development proceeded on several levels iteratively and often simultaneously
  5. 6. <ul><li>Temperament and background of instructor: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Independent / self starter / early adapter </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>. . . but no prior exposure to gaming or immersive worlds – what’s the best way to learn an immersive environment? – immerse yourself </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Learning is time consuming – love & document the process </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Procured support from the institution through a faculty-development grant that involved Linden dollars </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Lessons learned: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Continue with the same but be more open to collaboration & sharing (visiting meetings; listening at events) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Spend time in orientation islands (and the like) </li></ul></ul></ul>
  6. 9. <ul><li>Earth science teachers would find this location useful – lots of simulations here (NOAA sim) </li></ul>
  7. 10. <ul><li>Technology </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Unless your institution has high-powered machines it is best to use your own computer </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Plus a laptop or home computer lets you work in evening times too </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The interface is technically “free” but it takes time to get set up and understand how to work </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Reminder: these courses are 100% online; the eventual students will work online too </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Real Estate: it best if your institution can get space; but meet in public locations if necessary </li></ul>
  8. 11. These were not the focus for this course
  9. 12. <ul><li>Starting with familiar students </li></ul><ul><li>Starting with a small class size </li></ul><ul><li>Selecting a course where community building could serve as a reasonable course objective </li></ul><ul><li>Making SL a “requirement” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>a preliminary study showed a mandate was necessary for participation </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>planning for a written alternative, if necessary </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Designing SL into the course objectives and evaluation, but gently so </li></ul>
  10. 13. <ul><li>Planning the presentation component of the course into SL </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The ubiquitous community building program objective was enhanced through these planned meetings </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Requiring self reports of SL explorations and learning logs (debriefings after meetings) </li></ul><ul><li>Using SL in their projects (optional) </li></ul><ul><li>Having a final report on possible K12 uses </li></ul><ul><li>These components were 25% of the course grade and were evaluated explicitly within the assessment rubrics </li></ul>
  11. 14. <ul><li>Planning ahead to gain student support and to ward off possible resistance: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Calls to all students before the course </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Encouraging participation – having alternatives if absolute problem with technology </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Again, the author had worked with these students in earlier courses and expected they would be a willing group </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Considering “safety” and escape routes </li></ul><ul><li>The preparation seemed helpful  ultimately, all 7 students participated in SL; even one who had to purchase a new computer and work through dial-up </li></ul>
  12. 15. <ul><li>Students were warned about the open nature of SL and the possibility of unwanted approaches </li></ul><ul><li>“ Escape” routes were suggested </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Setting home as our island; teleporting there is necessary </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Reporting any advances </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Consider any legal requirements in your institutional setting </li></ul>
  13. 16. <ul><li>Students had signed onto SL earlier </li></ul><ul><ul><li>some with the help of our media specialist (through email and in SL) and </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>some through the handout instructions that were emailed </li></ul></ul><ul><li>The initial meeting was introductory, giving everyone a chance to experience being together </li></ul><ul><ul><li>2 students had trouble with computers and met the instructor in her office; the instructor and these students shared the same avatar (Eilock Clavenham) </li></ul></ul>
  14. 18. It proved useful to have some less pressured times for community building
  15. 19. <ul><li>Overall, the planning for contingencies, problems, and student learning curves served the course well – having “leeway” was important </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Having the online course materials positing the need for flexibility reinforced the needed tone </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The informal nature of the first meeting seemed to “break the ice” for SL expectations </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Like learning to walk, conducting your first course with SL is something you must do for yourself </li></ul>
  16. 20. <ul><li>One student who did not have speech capabilities typed her presentation commentary </li></ul><ul><li>Everyone had “hearing” capabilities so students listened to each others presentations </li></ul>
  17. 21. Students learned about each other’s science and K12 project ideas. They shared an understanding and a caring unlikely to be duplicated in the text-based online analog of this experience.
  18. 22. Students had really moved beyond a focus on the SL technology to a focus on the ideas being shared
  19. 23. When instructor’s headset failed during a meeting without tech support, students continued with their own discussion. Good lesson for the instructor.
  20. 29. - Invest time  learning SL takes time - Learn social as well as basic skills  go to Orientation Island; attend meetings – you can learn communication skills without interactions - Document your work  take snapshots; make a log Don’t expect perfection in your first SL classes
  21. 30. - Determine type of SL experience: community building, virtual / simulations, or sociological  deciding what works best for your need - Align SL with instructional & affective objectives  integrate into course & assignment - Start small  Limit expectations; choose right class; don’t do whole class in SL A extensive virtual experience requires more development time and expertise (preferably w/ institutional support)
  22. 31. - Prepare students in advance  call if possible; integrate into syllabus; have handouts - Require time spent in SL before the course  require time spent on Orientation Island as part of an assignment - Expect that students can get access to technology  but have written alternative assignments on hand - Respect students time, if an online class  have students set the meeting time - Alert students to unsavory avatars  have escape routes planned too; talk to legal department w/ minors
  23. 32. - Get real estate from your institution  however, if necessary, have meetings in another island after asking permission - Get good computer  consider the times you will be in SL; if evening, get good home machine - Get tech support, if possible  but have tech-savvy students help you if necessary Remember, you are modeling experiential learning – expect the unexpected
  24. 33. - Have expectations for your meetings  allow time for introductions and ice-breaker field trips - Document the meetings  both you and your students should take snapshots & keep logs - Adapt as needed  if you have designed sufficient open-endedness this will be easier - Find easy ways to have students present  get inexpensive slide-presentation objects, for instance Enjoy the process . . . this is a new and exciting territory
  25. 34. - Establish if SL helped you meet your objectives  remember though you can have broad networking objectives too - Listen to student perspectives  assess learning logs & commentaries but students may have different objectives than yours - Evaluate assignments & outcomes  determine if assignments are meeting your expectations & rubrics - Locate models of student engagement assessment  new models for immersive environments are under development Develop your own assessment tool – how do you determine if a face-to-face class is working anyway?
  26. 35. <ul><li>Overall, SL pilot was good – meetings, interactions, presentations, community building </li></ul><ul><li>Areas to be added: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Teacher-independent tasks among groups w/ snapshot and log documentation </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Specific task expectations in SL before coming to the class </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>With the help of an instructional designer, creating a science virtual experience </li></ul></ul>
  27. 36. <ul><li>Student interaction, caring, commitment and engagement was higher than in most online courses </li></ul><ul><li>You have to begin somewhere . . . </li></ul><ul><li>SO JUST DO IT!!! </li></ul>