ACM Logo  An ACM Publication  |  CONTRIBUTE  |  FOLLOW    

Second Life Education Workshop at the Second Life Community Convention, San Francisco, August 20, 2006

By Daniel Livingstone / March 2007

Print Email
Comments Instapaper

Last year, over 80 people attended a workshop in San Francisco dedicated to teaching with Second Life (SL). The presentations and blended nature of the workshop itself successfully showcased SL's potential while illustrating some of the ways it can be used to support education and learning.

SL is a persistent online 3D Multi-User Virtual Environment (MUVE) filled with user-created content. The ease with which users generate this content appears to be a particular draw for SL in a range of educational projects, especially compared to other MUVEs. Case studies, papers, and posters demonstrated a rich variety of projects to an audience bolstered by participants from across the globe simultaneously attending a virtual-workshop inside SL. Audio was streamed live from the real workshop while the virtual workshop was projected on-screen in San Francisco.

Here are some highlights from the conference:

Museums and Public Understanding of Science
The International Spaceflight Museum (ISM) exists only in the virtual world of SL and was formed by a group of volunteers. It now includes interactive exhibits developed by US and UK national bodies. One of those bodies-the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration-is developing its own area within SL to promote public understanding of climate science. A poster covered the overall project plans and detailed how a design competition was used to satisfy government requirements on awarding contracts. The Exploratorium, the San Francisco interactive science museum, has also been developing interactive science exhibits in SL. Museum representatives presented a poster on the lessons they have learned in trying to create a stimulating, immersive 3D museum experience.

Youth Development and Outreach
Global Outreach Morocco (GOM) students built a replica of Casablanca's Hassan II Mosque to promote awareness of Moroccan culture, tourism and business opportunities as part of an "alternative break" social project, which later included a real-life visit to Morocco. Global Kids ran a "Virtual Summer Camp," bringing teens from the US, Canada, and the UK together in another project aimed at increasing social awareness. The campers selected the issue of child sex trafficking, held their own "teach-in" event and constructed a virtual experiential exhibition. The event and exhibition allowed the campers to promote awareness of these issues to others in Teen SL.

Virtual Worlds, Real Colleges
Because introducing an open and shared online virtual world into a college curriculum can be problematic, several speakers explored the issues commonly faced by early adopters. While not a "game" as such, navigation in SL requires use of a modern 3D game interface-one which not all college users are familiar with. A tutorial session outlined a selection of materials and exercises, which can help users develop skills from very basic movement and navigation control to advanced building and scripting. Staff at Ohio University developed a community of practice to support users across the university in adopting this new technology. They used meetings in virtual space and practical on-site support to overcome technical and administrative problems and to build an experienced knowledge base.

The Virtual Professor
Aptly, the day ended with a virtual presentation by Sarah Robbins of Ball State University. While Robbins sat at home, the audience watched her virtual self stand in front of an equally virtual whiteboard on which slides appeared. Her talk focused on the changes to traditional tutor-student roles that can occur in a virtual environment, and she encouraged everyone to embrace the breakdown in the "standard" power relationship. Even those that did not feel such a shift would necessarily be positive were clearly touched by a speaker whose personality was conveyed very effectively by voice and avatar.

The workshop outlined a wide range of projects undertaken by a number of early adopters of SL. Most enjoyed some degree of success, though many experienced technical and administrative difficulties. The positive aspects of "blending realities" in teaching were emphasized by a workshop that itself blended realities, with speakers and audience members invited to participate through both the real and virtual worlds.


  • There are no comments at this time.