Experimenting with Second Life in Education

Just “went” to a “screening” in Second Life of video projects created by Full Sail students. I’m intrigued by the idea of hanging around and chatting with friends and students in the virtual space and amused at how one of my my WoW loving coworkers belittles the experience. This was the first time I’d been in Second Life since briefly experimenting with it early in my Pepperdine doctoral program over three years ago. While it was less clunky than I remember it being, it was still a bit of a challenge just maneuvering around the theater where the presentation was taking place. I forgot the command sequence so that my avatar could just sit down. Not to belittle all the effort that the students and Dr. Repp put into the presentation, there were still a number of technical difficulties, such as being able to have all of us experiencing the videos in the same way (we had to “run” the videos on our computers versus Dr. Repp pressing a button) and that kind of undermined the “shared experience” part of the presentation.

I have no doubt that, if Second Life continues, it will get better year after year. I remember about two years ago a lot of companies and agencies were going to Second Life because many of them saw it as the next generation communication portal that would be much more natural than a webpage. Podcasters like Cali Lewis, from Geekbrief, and Adam Curry saw it as a great way to meet-up with fans and supporters. And a few bands put on virtual concerts (I never did find out if the bands played “live” and then pumped the sound to SL or just let their avatars gyrate to recordings and passed it off as a “concert”). But after a while activity seemed to drop off because companies, agencies and rock stars soon learned that things didn’t really work well with more than 20 people/avatars in a room. SL may have had millions of users and 100s of thousands visiting monthly, but it wasn’t able to accommodate very many avatars when they gathered together in the same room. The reality was that even virtual space has limitation based on the “horsepower” of the end users computers, the bandwidth of the Internet connection at the users’ end and at the server end, and the computing power at the server end to generate and distribute a virtual world across the network. But given the technology hurdles that one has to overcome just to make it work, I still think that SL is an interesting experiment, a good place to introduce students to virtual worlds and virtual world creation, but not someplace to really conduct class. One thing that came out of early SL experiments is that video podcasters like Cali Lewis and Chris Pirillo have gone to “live” video streaming services like U-stream and Stickam, that allows them to communicate with their fans and community in real time and in some cases have video or chat dialogue. So they accomplish the need/desire to connect with their community without having to learn how to teach a damn avatar how to sit down. jbb

Brian Reitzell & Roger J. Manning Jr. - Lost In Translation - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack - On the Subway Music: On the Subway by Brian Reitzell & Roger J. Manning Jr. from the Lost in Translation” soundtrack

Click the following link for a SL in Education video…

Second Life in Education: Sarah Robbins, doctoral candidate at the University of Indiana, aka Intelligirl, talks about her experiences using Second Life in her classrooms.