So far I am very impressed with my experiences learning in Second Life. I recall watching a documentary about Second Life, Lindens and virtual real estate in the early stages (2005? 2006?) and many ideas about potential careers and organizing in the virtual realm came to me then. It would seem I was not alone and it took off at least for a bit before declining again. It is a bit sad to hear that the UHM College of Ed SL island will be going away at the end of the year but it sounds like Open Sim where it has already been duplicated to might be a better fit anyways. Although one major benefit I see of SL is that it allows for a lot of unexpected and unplanned encounters and crossing of paths that don’t usually happen in a conventional geo-spatially fixed educational setting. I am not sure if Open Sim is as open world as SL or how that will work out. I was really excited to learn in one of our first readings that Neil Gaiman’s Snow Crash was actually a major inspiration for Philip Rosedale in creating Second Life (Jennings and Collins, 2007, p181). My mind has gone many places with what could be possible using SL as a virtual learning environment, some of which you can read about here. In any case I will now briefly reflect on the actual content of our first two sessions in SL.
Session 1 on August 23rd, 2017 involved everyone porting into the UHM College of Ed SL island and mostly getting a basic introduction to the game. We started in one of the two primary Loi and made our way to a rooftop of one of the COE buildings. I was having trouble with my flying controls so I requested a teleport from a colleague/TA from the class who I had already friended in game. Once we were up there we pulled a large assortment of items from a box that we now permanently have in our inventories unless we do something to change that. I really appreciate how everything is organized with a session outline that Dr. Peter put together as part of the whole package. We click the item in our inventory to open up a notepad with everything we need to know. He narrates the instructions for what we are learning using his microphone to speak through his avatar so that all of those in close enough proximity to him in the virtual realm can hear. The platform allows for a very high level of organization of course materials by the instructor(s) and because it is digital it is very difficult to lose. It is all backed up on the SL servers and I don’t need to worry about losing a piece of paper. Of course that is not unique to Second Life, but the simulation and personification is much different and to me more exciting than something like Laulima or Gmail or other online educational platforms. I now have digital artifacts from this course I can hold onto (virtually) forever (or at least until those servers are destroyed or something else happens to destroy my items). Laulima and other similar platforms tend to go away after a certain period of time or even if they remain up indefinitely, they are more likely to become obscure memories than course materials I continue to hold in the inventory of my Second Life avatar…if I continue to play with said avatar or create a new one and transfer my inventory. Now that some further reflections on the more general potentials of SL have flowed from the session one reflection let’s move to session two.
Session 2 on August 30th, 2017 was our first introduction to building. We gathered on the rooftop and Dr. Peter walked us through building our own cubes: sizing, coloring, textures, face selection, duplication, hypertext script, and movement. We began at the top of the main COE building (I think that’s what it is supposed to be anyways…) and we all grabbed the session materials from a Gift Bag that Dr. Peter laid out. Oh that’s right…before meeting there we started in the Loi again. There the rest of us who had not already been granted permission to build in the COE realm were added to the proper group so we all could build there. The permissions are set that way so that only people with authorization can build there, otherwise any random person could show up and build whatever and potentially obstruct the entire virtual education setting. After our basic intro to the commands and controls of building we were walked through the process of building a gift bag, following along Dr. Peter’s verbal instruction as well as the accompanying written guide he left for us in the gift bag that we gathered the session materials from. While this might seem rather boring and mundane to some at first glance, I find it to be a very exciting process. This makes sense as the first introduction to learning the tools for building in this virtual world. But once a class is up to speed with the basic skills, much more intricate and interesting scenario and world-building prompts could be organized and executed by course facilitators. The applications to STEM fields are obvious enough with different shapes, models of cells, architecture and engineering happening. What I am particularly motivated about though is more the capacity for collective storytelling, art therapy, and roleplay set construction. Of course none of the latter would need to exclude STEM rather it could offer collective creation of epic storyline(s) that make the particular STEM challenges much more palatable. For example, something like the Intergalactic Space Opera – Collective & Autonomous Game for Language Learning but translated in a complete and well organized fashion into Second Life as a framework for student led creation of campaign settings where the “real” academic knowledges valued by standardized testing could be explored in excited detail. Just an idea…
Images from Session 1
Images from Scavenger Hunt assignment
Images from Session 2
[Regrettably I did not take any snapshots of our session, but it was quite an interesting image with several people building our first items in Second Life … many boxes and eventually gift bags. I designed a Parallax Cube meant to be used as a portal. I will add images from that session here or of the items I created later if and when I can…]
Jennings & Collins (2007). Virtual or Virtually U: Educational Institutions in Second Life, International Journal of Social Sciences, 2(3), 180-186.