Friday, February 5, 2010
Elearning in Second Life
In September last year, I ventured into Second Life (SL) to explore.
My purpose was similar to that of most educators whom I have welcomed in the short time I have been a SL ISTE docent. I wanted to find out what SL could offer as an elearning environment.
I now have a clearer idea of its worth and potential.
The near-reality of much of the 3D simulation offered by SL is a valuable element – it is a key quality of this elearning platform. However, its aesthetic charm may dull even an educator’s appreciation of the true value of what SL can hold for a learner.
I enjoy the fantasy aspect which is so often present when I’m in SL. The huge variety of costume, and the opportunity available for disguise, make it splendid for roleplay. This aspect of SL has great potential to extend the imagination of the participant.
There are a number of features that identify SL's genuineness as an authentic elearning environment:
Second Life is an environment that embraces people. This quality alone brings authenticity.
There is a wide range of ways of recognising the presence of people, wherever the participant happens to be in SL. Channels to engage in communication between those who are online are easy to use. They can be facilitated in many different ways and at different levels. They are certainly not limited to simple txt or voice chat.
Even body language can play its part in exchanges between people.
The sharing culture
There is a culture of sharing that is clearly evident among people in SL. This has possibly arisen through recognition of the need for assistance, sharing and collaborating when people first come into SL.
The cultural practice of sharing tends to be passed on. And it is accomplished at different levels, from a brief offer of situational help between two strangers at meeting, to organised sessions where experienced trainers can volunteer skills to others who are less competent.
SL presents music to its participants through various pathways, either live, pre-recorded or streamed directly from international radio stations. YouTube plays its part in all this, bringing music, new and old, as well as videos on many other themes to the eyes and ears of participants who have full control over audio levels within a full range of different sound channels.
Within the first few weeks as a visitor, I was able to engage in the construction of the digital stuff that is the fabric of SL. I don’t think there is another elearning environment where participants can so freely make use of the componentry and structure that comprise the environment they are in.
Many of its cultural environments provide support for this engagement, through classes provided voluntarily by experienced exponents of the craft.
Two main techniques that contribute to this are building and scripting. They go hand in hand, employed in the construction of the simplest thing such as an item of jewellery, to the most complicated assemblage of the foundation of the environment itself.
For the motivated learner, there is a copious amount of well-laid-out tutorial material to be found in centres throughout the environment. Splendid examples of these are the Particle Laboratory Learning Centre and the Ivory Tower Library of Primitives, where a learner can acquire knowledge and skills on the fundamentals of building and scripting.
It is at centres like these that both beginner and experienced developer can visit and gather pearls of 21st century wisdom on the construction of the digital fabric of Second Life.