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Learn, Teach and Play in 3D Virtual Worlds

Catching up with myself!  I need to make some proper notes about last week’s event at City University before I get too caught up in CAL and never get round to it!

A number of things struck me during the day as being potentially useful to my thinking and to student’s use of Second Life.  These included:

  • An observation in response to my talk questioning whether it was a good thing to introduce students to building so quickly when many people are not ready to consider building for weeks or months after entering Second Life.  When we invite Sussex students into Second Life, it is in relation to a specific course and the deliverables from that course include creating a product for a client. Essentially we are using Second Life as a tool or platform and the focus is on its affordances rather than on enabling students to become SL residents.  I noticed when I cleared the group for this year that very few of last years students had been into SL after the end of the course and I wonder if we are effectively making the students augmentalists in our approach.
  • In contrast, OU students have not been required to do anything when they enter SL and very few demands are made on them, but they have formed a vibrant community and initiated a number of activities and events, some with support from tutors and some of their own volition.  The community has formed itself in such a way that it is able to welcome newcomers and help them to feel at home in the environment.
  • Should socialisation (I hate that word as it is used to mean something different from what I was taught when I studied sociology) be explicit or implicit in the induction of students to SL? With the Sussex students, we don’t really address this at all in any meaningful way and we do not encourage use of the island as a social environment. We don’t discourage it either.  Socialisation and community building is the main purpose of the OU island and other activities stem from this.  OU tutorials introduce students to SL, but they are encouraged to visit SL other than for tutorials and to become part of the community.
  • Consider communication patterns – one of the reasons text threads can get complex is a tendency to use several part sentences or incomplete thoughts (cf micro blogging) rather than a complete idea and these can get lost or misunderstood when there are multiple threads with a large group of people.
  • The idea of doing things in SL because they are difficult to do in real life came up with a couple of speakers, reminiscent of difficult, dangerous, impossible.
  • Levelling – a changing role of teacher and student.  This sometimes occurs because people are unsure who is who and also occurs because students may have greater expertise in aspects of SL than their teachers.  A few months back, I was seeing SL creating a situation where ‘teachers’ and ‘students’ become fellow travellers or ‘learners together’, changing the usual student/teacher dynamics and hierarchy.
  • Being outed by the technology. This phrase was used in a talk about being a deaf or hearing impaired user of SL but might have other applicability.  I that instance, an avatar wearing an ‘anti-voice’ t-shirt and with a tag indicated involvement in a hearing impaired group was asked if they were deaf in real life and felt a sense of violation as the virtual world and real worlds collided (the question had not made sense as the person concerned had not been consciously aware of the message they were giving out).  Presumably the same thing can happen with cultural differences (accents) and possibly with people who choose to have opposite gender avatars in situations where voice communication is being used.

There was a lot more content during the day and when I get chance I will go through the notes and write them up properly.

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