Second Life

SECOND LIFE IN EDUCATION


Mane Pada mepada@email.wm.edu

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HOW IT ALL STARTED


The phone call:
Two years ago now, a professor in the Law School, Stacey Rae Simcox, who teaches a course called Crime and the Internet contacted me about the possibility of supporting and helping her with a technology tool she wanted to use in her classroom: Second Life. At the time, not being a gamer (yet), I had not been exposed to virtual worlds, multi-users games, avatars, and the like. I decided this sounded like a very interesting project so I embarked myself in this new adventure.

Let’s do it:
After downloading the game and creating an avatar (I made sure my virtual self is taller and had a smaller nose!), I attended the tutorial offered in the Help and Orientation Islands and once I “graduated” took off flying into new lands. I learned very quickly as mentioned in Risk and Responsibility: A Self-Study of Teaching with Second Life (SULLIVAN, 2009) that one “must be willing to leave their comfort zone, to tolerate a certain level of chaos and ambiguity, be willing to take risks and willing to be wrong”. Oh my, how true this statement is! Second Life is in many ways, just like our first life. It is a society with its own set of rules and guidelines. I had to learn to walk, run and fly! I had to understand the way avatars communicate (via mic, and/or chat). I had to learn which places to go and which to avoid. I realized I had to get money (via a job or buying lindens with a credit card) in order to purchase and own things. I discovered that there is an appropriate dress code in some venues and that I can’t just change clothes (which implies I get naked) everywhere. I also found out I can attend wonderful music events, visit replicas of real-life museums, teleport myself to cities and countries I have never visited in my first life, speak a foreign language with other avatars, discuss professional topics with others in the field, and much more!

The class:
After my initial experience with Second Life I called Stacey Rae and told her I was on board!
We conducted several meetings to plan and organize the virtual sessions.
We checked with IT to ensure a room and enough headsets.
We also requested availability of enough broadband to avoid clogging our network.
I asked one of our IT tech support staff members to be there for additional support.
Most of her students have never heard of SL(or virtual worlds for that matter) so this was a new experience for them.

First meeting: 9/22/08
o We took her students to a lab and asked them to bring their laptops (they downloaded SL before that class period)
o We met for class and opened SL. They were asked to create their avatars.
o Then we all m et in the Orientation Island to learn some basic SL skills.

Following that activity Stacey Rae teleported the whole class to a “freebies” store to buy clothes.
  • Once they chose what they wanted to wear, she assigned several activities:
  • To go to London and take a ride on a double-decker bus.
  • To go somewhere they always wanted to visit.
o The second half of the class was spent in San Miguel at their police department.
o The chief of Police and some of the force’s officers greeted us and took us to a conference room where we all took our seatss.
o The chief of Police introduced the class to SL’s Terms of Service, griefing, stealing, banning of avatars, and other related topics..
o His presentation was followed by a Q&A session.

Second meeting: 10/10/08
o The second time we met we met at the East Carolina University campus (ECU)
o They lent us their space in order to conduct class.
o Their sat on floating chairs and Stacey Rae had access to a classroom podium.
o Students discussed the assigned articles for that day and shared their feelings about holding class in SL.
o One of the students, who was not in VA at the time, joined from Spain.
o Students got a chance to raise their hands and ask questions during class

Third meeting: 2/9/10
o This time we met at the Law School.
o We experienced connection issues so the group was split into two groups and one of the groups was taken to another class.
o Stacey Rae assigned someone to be their coordinator and she communicated with him via a headset.
o The students spent some time buying things, going places and dancing!
o Afterwards we met at a different police department.
o The chief of police introduced some new topics such as virtual rape, child pornography, how to report abuse, etc.
o Here again, students had an opportunity to ask questions (via mic and/or chat)

Lessons learned:
Benefits:
o Engagement: The level of participation and engagement was very high. Students became very curious about this new environment.
o Most students learned the basics fairly quick. They were able to navigate the land and communicate with other avatars without incident.
o A new way to deliver information: Stacey Rae was able to recruit help from experts in the field of crime in a virtual world, bringing validity and confirmation to the curriculum content.
o Experiential: Students not only learned by doing but they were also able to transfer that knowledge within SL and apply it towards new experiences.

Constraints:
o Headphones: Not all students had headsets and we had to find a way to either borrow and/or purchase headsets to distribute to all her students.
o Chatting function: Some of the students used the chatting feature within SL to talk about non-related topics. Students oftentimes do this in other classes. The difference in SL is that we can actually see these social interactions (via local chat feature)
o Broadband issues: Connections became very slow when all the students try to login into SL at the same time.
o Interface: Not all the students were thrilled to be attending class in SL. This medium does not fit everyone’s learning style. Goofing off: Some students had a difficult time staying on track. They wondered into other lands and established connections with avatars not participating in class.


Simcox_class3.jpg

OVERVIEW


  • Second Life (SL) is a virtual world developed by Linden Lab that launched on June 23, 2003 and is accessible via the Internet.
  • A free client program called the Second Life Viewer enables its users, called Residents, to interact with each other through avatars.
  • Residents can explore, meet other residents, socialize, participate in individual and group activities, and create and trade virtual property and services with one another, or travel throughout the world (which residents refer to as "the grid").
  • Second Life is for people aged 18 and over, while Teen Second Life is for people aged 13 to 17.
  • Built into the software is a three-dimensional modeling tool based around simple geometric shapes that allows a resident to build virtual objects.
  • This can be used in combination with the Linden Scripting Language which can be used to add functionality to objects.
  • More complex three-dimensional sculpted prims textures for clothing or other objects, and animations and gestures can be created using external software.
  • The Second Life Terms of Service ensure that users retain copyright for any content they create, and the server and client provide simple digital rights management functions.
  • There is no charge to create a Second Life account or for making use of the world for any period of time.
  • Avatars can communicate via local chat or global instant messaging (known as IM)
  • Second Life has an internal currency, the Linden dollar (L$).
  • L$ can be used to buy, sell, rent or trade land or goods and services with other users.
  • Premium membership allows the Resident to own land free of the usual monthly Land Use Fee (referred to by residents as Tier, because it is charged in tiers).
  • Any land must first be purchased from either Linden Lab or a private seller.
  • There are four types of land regions; Mainland (one continuous land mass), Private Region (islands), Homestead and Openspace (may be either Mainland or Private, but have lower prim limits and traffic use levels than Mainland regions)
  • Residents must own a region (either Mainland or Private) to qualify for purchasing an Openspace region.
  • More on SL features: http://wiki.secondlife.com/wiki/Features


RELEVANCE FOR TEACHING AND LEARNING or, INWORLD TEACHING AND LEARNING


SL claims that educational institutions:
  • can use the Second Life Grid to create a safe environment to enhance experiential learning, allowing individuals to practice skills, try new ideas, and learn from their mistakes.
  • can prepare students or employees for real-world experiences by using Second Life as a simulation!
  • students and educators can work together on Second Life from anywhere in the world as part of a globally networked virtual classroom environment.
According to Bertalan Mesko, among other things, an organizer of scientific events in Second Life” , SL brings many benefits to the educational experience:
  • Collaboration:You can contact people of the same field of interest from around the world
  • Without Boundaries: You can work with people without boundaries.
  • Interactivity: You can use videos, presentations, images and weblinks at the same time in one place. This means you can easily create links between in-world activity and real-world information resources
  • Support: You can easily find people dealing with the same problems. You can meet them virtually and discuss your problem
  • Search: You can do searches and browse among the many books of the virtual libraries.
  • Exibits: You can create exhibitions and presentation materials.

Several of these attributes were utilize inthe following scavenger hunt activity designed to help students co-experience and explore SL as they were sent on a mission to discover interesting places and learn basic SL skills. Six locations were introduced which were cultural or historical venues that represented exemplary uses of SL. To complete the exercise, students needed to retrieve the instructions, decipher the embedded hints and teleport to the location where the item they were searching for was located. This exercise had to be completed as a team and required that students coordinate their activities, communicate effectively and collaborate in the process. Successful completion was achieved when the team leader submitted a note card that contained details of the team’s collaboration as outlined in the Scavenger Hunt instructions. Additionally, each student was requested to write a reflective essay answering several questions which probed into their experiences during this adventure.

The article on Second Life and Education in Crossroads (ACM) describes some advantages of teaching in SL:
  • A professor can illustrate points visually as well as verbally with minimum effort.
o A chemistry professor's animation of an excited electron, or a simulated discussion with a fictional or historical personage are two examples of the advantages of teaching inworld.
  • The opportunities for making library resources of all kinds available in Second Life, including text, images, geospatial data, video, audio, and social information, is drawing librarians inworld at a rapid pace
o The Info Island Archipelago is the most extensive and well-developed library system in Second Life. It offers a network of libraries, free and low price resources for academic and public libraries, and space and support for libraries and academic institutions to experiment and grow.


SL IN PRACTICE


At the College of William & Mary Second Life is not a widely adopted tool. However, Second Life is used by many other colleges, universities, and libraries. Harvard University, Texas State University, and Stanford University for example, have set up virtual campuses where students can meet, attend classes, and create content together.
  • Language Education
Language learning is the most widespread type of education in virtual worlds, with many universities, mainstream language institutes and private language schools using 3D virtual environments to support language learning.
  • Arts
Second Life residents express themselves creatively through virtual world adaptations of art exhibits, live music, live theater.
  • Theater
Live theater is presented in Second Life.
In 2009 the company is producing scenes from //Twelfth Night//.
In 2009, the TLE theater company began producing full-length plays in Second Life, starting with The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde in February, and followed by Candida by George Bernard Shaw in April.
In December 2008, The Learning Experience, a not-for-profit virtual education campus in Second Life, staged its first live theater events with the production of two short plays, A Matter of Husbands by Ferenc Molnár and Porcelain and Pink by F. Scott Fitzgerald.
The SL Shakespeare Company performed an act from Hamlet live in February 2008.
  • Science
Second Life is used for scientific research, collaboration, and data visualization.
Examples include SciLands, American Chemical Society's ACS Island, Genome, Nature Publishing Group's Elucian Islands Village.
  • Literature
The goals of Literature Alive! are to help faculty create ethical and immersive learning environments that provide "added value" to students in composition, professional writing, and literature courses: to help students use the resources of a 3D world to add to the depth and breadth of understanding literature; to foster a community of open access educators dedicated to the sharing of teaching content; and, finally, to promote a lifelong love of learning through a lifelong passion for reading. Literature Alive! in Second Life was born in December 2006 as a voluntary effort and continues to exist on a voluntary basis. By working collaborative with others, modeling virtual citizenship, and securing land grant and linden sponsors, Literature Alive! has produced over 30 literary projects in Second Life.
  • Innovative teaching:
o Harvard's ground-breaking class, Cyber One: //Law in the Court of Public Opinion//. This course is an attempt to create a class that includes Harvard law students, extension students, and the general public, all with different expectations and degrees of involvement.
o The New Media Consortium. This is the largest education project in Second Life. http://secondlifegrid.net.s3.amazonaws.com/docs/Second_Life_Case_NMC_EN.pdf


K-12 IN SECOND LIFE(Some examples)





HIGHER-ED IN SECOND LIFE

(Some examples)

  • California State University, Chico (This Second Life location is used as a hub for students of California State University, Chico. Located next to the CSUC School of Social Work, this parcel is dedicated to creating a community of learners engaged in the direct instruction of topics ranging from teacher education to calculus) http://slurl.com/secondlife/South%20Sea%20Isle/109/54/24
  • Georgia State University (Five Points, the public sim for Georgia State University, is designed for instructors who are involved in teaching and learning in Second Life. Highlights include areas for meetings or small clases, a sandbox for building, and a bookstore with self-help on SL topics and organized landmarks for finding educational spots.) http://slurl.com/secondlife/Five%20Points/117/143/26
  • Loyola Marymount (Loyola Marymount Virtual University is an effort to construct a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary university in the 3D Internet. Currently it consists of a central arrival area and 4 sims reflecting different disciplines involved in immersive education activities: LMU Psychology Island, LMU Language Island, LMU Engineering Island, and LMU Computer Science Island. Future plans cal for the expansion of the virtual campus to incorporate additional colleges and departments within the university) http://slurl.com/secondlife/LMUPsychologyIsland/91/131/22
  • The Pennsylvania State University (Penn State World Campus is the online campus of The Pennsylvania State University. All World Campus students earn their Penn State degree or certificate completely online. We are using Second Life to give our online and distance learners a way to connect with each other and experience campus traditions in an online environment) http://slurl.com/secondlife/PSU%20World%20Campus/215/175/27
  • The Ohio State University (Minerva is the teaching and research space for the Department of Women’s Studies at The Ohio State University. This island may be inaccessible when classes are in session) http://slurl.com/secondlife/Minerva/16/14/22
  • The University of Akron – my Alma Matter! (Here you will find excellence in the breadth and quality of our 300 academic degree programs, and in the highly talented faculty who will help mold you into a critical thinker. Here you will find a metropolitan setting that places you in the heart of a dynamic, regional economy, and in sync with the pulse of business, government and the community. Most important, here you will discover energy, in the high-tech classrooms of our new academic buildings, in our new Student Union and Student Recreation and Wellness Center, and among the 200 student organizations on campus) http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Akron%20Island/144/116/29
  • More: http://edudirectory.secondlife.com/

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES




BIBLIOGRAPHY


Brian Mennecke, L. M. (2008). The Mean Business of Second Life: Teaching Entrepreneurship, Technology and e-Commerce in Immersive Environments. Journal of Online Learning and Teaching .
Gollub, R. (2007). Second Life and Education. Retrieved 2010, from Crossroads - The ACM Student Magazine: http://www.acm.org/crossroads/xrds14-1/secondlife.html#bio
Meskó, B. (2007, September 19). How and Why to use Second Life for Education? . Retrieved 2010, from Science Roll: http://scienceroll.com/2007/09/19/how-and-why-to-use-second-life-for-education/
Mutina, B. (2007). Cyber crime on Second Life. Retrieved 2010, from iZone-h: http://www.zone-h.org/news/id/4637
Second Life. (n.d.). Retrieved 2010, from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Life
SULLIVAN, F. R. (2009). Second Life Self-Study. Retrieved 2009, from http://www.eric.ed.gov/ERICWebPortal/custom/portlets/recordDetails/detailmini.jsp?_nfpb=true&_&ERICExtSearch_SearchValue_0=EJ842369&ERICExtSearch_SearchType_0=no&accno=EJ842369

Watch Stacey Rae Simcox using Second Life in her class: