I’ll admit, my early experiences with, and impressions of, Second Life were not very positive. There’s an appreciable learning curve, more options than I’ll ever use (or remember). And, when you finally leave Orientation Island, what happens?
Me & my cohorts stood around–pretty close to where we “beamed down”. No exploration, no meaning-making, no discovery. Just chat. And texting at that!
I bought a headset/microphone so that I could talk online. Lord knows my speaking skills are much better than my keyboarding. But my attempts at conversation were met with silence… except for the clicking sound SL makes as the avatars typed in their next text message.
And with over a dozen people texting…. well, you can imagine just how linear those dialogues were 😦
Working & studying take up my time; once I get my degree, once I retire, I might spend more time in SL. But right now, I’m there at the appropriate meeting time and place, ready to do whatever we’ve said we’re gonna do, then I’m off to finish some other assignment or work-related task. I don’t have a lot of “dawdle time” right now.
So, when a recent class session included time to explore, my initial reaction was “@*&%?+~, what a waste of my oh-so-precious time!” But, the only thing worse than wasting time is to have to report back to the class that I didn’t waste it effectively! So I went exploring.
And what I found was pretty cool. museum sites, resources, links to places beyond SL. I began to see the possibilities that SL held for learning. For K-5 (or -6, -7, -8?) students, SL could serve as a very effective learning environment. True, building it would take more time (and money) than doing so in Moodle or Blackboard. But, for the younger learner, the environment would be much more enticing.
As students got older, the environment would have to offer more than just a creative way to archive links and resources. But the possibilities are there.
And, the creation of a totally virtual classroom, with simulations, demos, etc. available no longer seems as quite the stretch I viewed it as, just one week ago. By properly applying a supportive pedagogy that embraced the fluid, distributed environment, instructional designers could create effective learning experiences.
Parts of me is glad that I don’t have to become SL-proficent in order to participate in my classes. But, having been fairly well bruised and battered by behaviorist teaching strategies, New Math, and the earlier years of standardized testing, another part of me wishes I’d been born 40-50 years later. So that I would now be at a point in time, and in my life, where exploration was an integral part of eduction, resources were readily, and almost randomly, available, and I could fly to class.