In Second Life, you have a 3-D avatar, sitting in a 3-D environment, carrying out real-time 3-D interaction (smiles, laughs, boos, etc are possible). In other environments - it's all text based - no realism to that. In regular chat rooms, even with VOIP, it's just not that real. Second Life adds that extra dimension of immediacy, and studies have shown that increased immediacy will increase student satisfaction and achievement in a course. I know it's not totally real - but it is another step. Second Life will be introducing voice-based chat soon in the future. The technology exists now so that you can create a 3-D graphic of yourself from just one picture, and then map that graphic so that it moves to your own movements using a web cam. All of this will probably make it into SL soon. There is also the creative side of SL. Anyone can create anything in SL, just by learning a few basic commands - no advanced coding or wire frames. Groups could work together and create a virtual project in real life - say a car that meets certian environmental requirements - that could never realistically be done in real life. And then there are virtual field trips. The World Trade Centers, 1980's Hell's Kitchen, even Dune all exist in Second Life. Places you could never visit in real life are there to explore virtually. I've been inside of a human heart in SL, stood on a huge map of the US and interacted with weather patterns, and flown around the planets looking at details - all in 3-D. Not pictures in a book, or vidoes on the web - in realistic 3-D. And then there's role play. People are recreating events - kind of like the Civil War re-enactments groups now do - all in Second Life. Since you can change your avatar, you can easily assume a historial or contemporary role for a class meeting (and probably find someone that will sell you a realistic avatar for cheap) and complete a group assignment that way. These are only a fraction of the ideas that are flying off the top of my head right now. I can't even scratch the surface about stuff like what the SLOODLE project are doing (Second Life + MOODLE). To me, the educational possibilities are endless. It's not perfect, and it's not THE answer that some people beleive it could be (anybody that thinks there is any one answer for anything in education is crazy in my book). Think of it as just the next step in online tool evolution - a step that is still new and gaining it's feet.
Introduction to SL http://youtube.com/watch?v=b72CvvMuD6Q
Seriously Engaging http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S9VZKTT6gZ8
Suffern Middle School http://rampoisliands.blogspot.com
Second Life Education Wiki http://www.simteach.com/wiki/index.php?title=Second_Life_Education_Wiki
San Francisco Exploratorium http://www.archimuse.com/mw2007/papers/rothfarb/rothfarb.html
Space Museum http://slispaceflightmuseum.org/drupal/
Video showing some of the strengths and weaknesses http://youtube.com/watch?v=T_akmmr0ReI
ISTE on SL http://tinyurl.com/2lss5o
Ohio University in SL http://www.ouwb.ohiou.edu/
Clark Aldrich's Top 10 Missing Elements in SL http://web.archive.org/20070520004954/clarkaldrich.blogspot.com/2007/05/top-ten-missing-features-of-second-life.html
Second Life LocationsEdit
Imagination Island (Rachelsville — Children’s Lit): http://slurl.com/secondlife/Imagination%20Island/110/179/25/?x=500&y=500&title=Rachelsville&msg=ENJOY%21%21
Commonwealth Island (Hang Gliding): http://slurl.com/secondlife/Commonwealth%20Island/241/112/106/?x=500&y=500&title=Hang%20Gliding%21&msg=ENJOY%21%21
My personal experience of Second LIfe is that it's a world of barbie doll avatars with great bodies and minimal clothing. Occasionally I've seen someone interesting who plays around with their image more. But, it seems like most people just want to be hot. They stand or fly around in innocuously pretty places filled with beautiful water features, rolling hills and flowering plants with semi-greco roman amphitheaters and fabulous homes. They don't seem to do much of anything... except shop. All the avatars are shopping at the mall. There's a sociological study for you right there. Give people a world in which all freedom is theirs and they use it to shop.
I've heard of cool things happening, of course... most of it on youtube videos, but many of those things seem like they would be more cool in real life,which begs the question is it great just because you can and before you couldn't, or is there something inherently useful about an avatar in a created space? Interviews with people like Susanne Vega, John Maeda and Kurt Vonnegut or a sim U2 concert.. I would learn more from real body language and facial expression than from Sim. The silliest use I've seen so far is meditating avatars... I really didn't get the point of that... sending your avatar off to meditate. One wonders whether the real people are meditating at the same time as their avatars which means that everyone got together where no one is watching the avatars who were created as representations of real people for other real people to watch, but no one is. It's that tree in a forest, sound of one hand clapping thing, I guess. That's ironic right there.. but even funnier would be if only the avatar was meditating.
This morning I watched an animated educational video here<http://youtube.com/watch?v=ehEzRUu4_RM>where the author created an ant simulation. I liked it, although not more than a flash, cell, or claymation animation... Still... it was worth watching and instructive. And it appeared that the simulation included scripts for the ants, computer programming apps that would make it even more interesting as a teaching tool, although I wasn't sure if the script enabled the ant to do things that a real ant would do or just avoided a programming error.
Another cool application that I heard of first on this list, I think... the middle school English class that created a mock trial for a book they read. That was a good use.... sort of a high tech improvised puppet show. I could really see using Second Life for something like that... although actually presenting in real time before a real flesh and blood audience is a skill worth acquiring too... perhaps if the students were from different schools so that the distance created need for a simulated courtroom... or if the sims required students to learn programming skills or 3D skills to operate them.
In any case.. I've been bored in my Second Life and I'd like not to be. If anyone knows of a cool event or application, I'd like to hear about it.
>>> In any case.. I've been bored in my Second Life and I'd like not to be. If anyone knows of a cool event or application, I'd like to hear about it. <<<
Thanks for posting. Your experience is unfortunately somewhat common I think, particularly among educators. Allow me to try to help. Look me up in-world if you want. (Sorry in advance for the length here...please get a cup of coffee.)
As you may have noticed in a prior posting, I am presently doing grant-funded research on SL in education thanks to a Faculty Excellence Grant. I am blogging the experience here: http://www.storyofmysecondlife.com/. There are many, many other people doing the same kind of research, and more.
First of all, as a generalization, "barbie doll avatars with great bodies and minimal clothing" is, to be honest, somewhat fitting. But that's really like saying encylopedias make good paperweights. There is SO much more to SL than the visuals.
Thanks for sharing that video. It's one of the best pieces of educational machinima (machine animation) I've seen! Here is another you should watch if you have not already:
It was produced by The New Media Consortium, a group dedicated to education. It highlights, beautifully I might add, the educational potential of SL.
Second, you need to make some new SL friends! Have you been to the ISTE HQ on EduIsland? We don't have people present at ALL times, but we are working on it. The very best time to visit seems to be Sunday nights around 4-6pm PST / 7-9pm EST. Especially toward the end of that slot. It's been a ZOO at ISTE HQ, with educators from all over the world convening to get to know each other, discuss what the ISTE is doing in SL, and explore ways to use SL with students of all ages.
Third, the educational application ARE absoultely there. Here's one. Search for "Literature Alive" and meet Desideria Stockton (Beth Ritter-Guth in real life). She has built an amazing facility designed for educators to learn about SL. I would post a SLURL but don't have access to SL right now. Also look for "Terra Incognita," home of Lindy McKeown, the ISTE Outstandling Leader of the Year in 2006 (http://tinyurl.com/2glfqs). She is a PhD researcher in Australia and her island - built largely by volunteers - is a cornucopia of ideas, possibilities, and helpful info. She is an amazing person, one whom I have had the privilige of getting to know. Without SL, I never would have had that chance.
Fourth, as far as the "connection" one makes in SL, I'm guessing it affects people differently. I personally feel my avatar is an expression of me, and if you meet me in-world, and then perhaps at a conference, I think you would agree it's pretty much on. In real life I'm not nearly as cool as my avatar, as young, as graceful, as muscular, or as well dressed, but that's not the point. It is my virtual representation, and I work very hard to act and communicate in SL as I do in real life. Concerned, helpful, funny (goofy!) - but all the while, focused on one thing: how SL can be used in education. There is a small but growing group of people I have met - SL friends - who have quickly become very important to my research and to me personally. I have a connection to them. They are REAL people in a VIRTUAL space. I have found the environment heightens these connections in ways that are hard to express! I had the pleasure of meeting one SL friend, a fellow educator, in real life recently ... and the experience changed us both. I look forward to meeting more SL friends at NECC in June.
>>> Another cool application that I heard of first on this list, I think... the middle school English class that created a mock trial for a book they read. That was a good use.... sort of a high tech improvised puppet show. <<<
Pardon me for chuckling, but, I have to laugh. :) That project is the furthest thing from "a high tech improvised puppet show" than you can possibly imagine. You're talking about Suffern Middle School in Suffern NY, one of the very few REAL SCHOOLS doing REAL WORK in SL right now. The leader, Peggy Sheehy, has a blog here: http://web.archive.org/20070628020557/rampoislands.blogspot.com/. I spent two days last week - on my spring break - with Peggy and the students and teachers at Suffern (I live just two hours away). I have an audio interview on my blog - it is brief, but it will give you insight into how SL is percieved by THESE students - and how the environment, which is so natural to them, allows them to really express themselves and get into material in ways not otherwise possible. I have a video interview as well - we are waiting for permission to post it - that is also instructful. The students did not build, but they did assume the roles of the people in the trial in Of Mice and Men, and they explored the characters in FAR greater detail than they EVER would have "acting" in a real classroom. Think about it. This is a middle school. We all know the social pressures kids are under. SL strips those pressures AWAY and lets them communicate naturally, fluently, and powerfully. I saw it with my own eyes. I was blown away.
OK! If you are (or anyone else is) still reading, let me say thanks for hanging in ... :) SL is a wonderful place but you need to seek out the right people and places and then network, network, network until your fingers bleed. SL has changed my life and I'm only 6 weeks into my research. I can scarcely imagine what the next four months will bring!
Hope this helps!