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Presentation on Education in Second Life

By admin | Oktober 25, 2007

bildung1.jpgI was invited by Pedro Meya Marty to give a presentation on education in Second Life as part of one of their seminars. The focus was supposed to be on the potential use of Second Life for schools.

The whole event was of special interest to me, as they were able to provide a Shoutcast server and so I could deliver the whole presentation much like I was giving a speach in real life, just that I was physically sitting at my desk at home rather than standing in front of my audience. I attended events that used this feature before, but it was the first time that I could use it as a speaker.

All in all, the event went well and was a very pleasant experience. I was just a bit insecure or fiddeling with technology now and then, but it didn’t really interfere with my presentation and it was to be expected for doing this for the first time. I spoke about chances and challenges in using Second Life as an education al tool and pointed to two projets - the PacificRim Exchange and Schome - as two most interesting examples of work with teenagers that - in my opinion - teach interesting lessons for any possible use of Second Life at schools.

There was a short discussion and I want to use this blog entry to address some of the interesting points brought up.

Q: Are there any elementary schools using Second Life?
A: Not that I am aware of, this would be made impossible by the strict age segregation that is exclusing children that are not at least 13 years of age from using Second Life.

Q: Are there any ways to get around these age restrictions?
A: None that are not in violation of the TOS and may not lead to a permanent ban from Second Life as a result.

I am sure that people of all age lie about their age to get on the Main Grid or onto the Teen Grid when they shouldn’t, but

    - this isn’t any different from other age restricted websites, so Second Life is surely not more unsafe than the internet in general,
    - there is a risk to be caught and be permamnently exciled from SL with all your accounts
    - Linden Lab is implementing a system of age verification through third parties. The system is avialable only for landowners so far, but it can be expected that its use will be extended. It will allow you to get your age verified by providing your drivers’s license number or social security number through a third partya nd thus have you age verified. I have doubts, if this system really is as secure as some people assume it to be - who is perventing my kid from using my drivers license to register as me, for example - and I haven’t made up my mind yet, if I find it accaptable in terms of data privacy, but I can see how LL was forced to do something by all the bad press it received over the potential harm done to minors by being exposed to virtual nudity.

Q: How did you make this presentation?
I made a presntation using Keynote (should be the same using PowerPoint for all your Windows users out there), saved all slides as JPGs, uploaded them to Second Life and dumped them into AngryBeath Shortbread’s whiteboard. The Second Life Voice feature doesn’t work well for me, so my voice was recorded using Nicecast and simultanously uploaded to a Shoutcast server, from where my voice was streamed into Second Life. It all worked excellent.

Q: Are there any alternative solutions to Second Life that are less commercially oriented?
A: Rather not.

There are many similar virtual worlds, I started to explore some of them and keep blogging about my findings here. So far I wrote a little about There, IMVU and Gaia Online, more articles should follow in due time. I understand that the public image of Second Life created by the media has stressed the commercial aspect of the world and it can easily look like everything in Second Life is about money. I have a few answers to this concern, sorry for being a bit verbouse, but I feel that this is a complex issue and may deserve some complex answers:

    - What in real life is not about money? Let’s stick to education. Our teachers are paid a salary, if we buy books for the kids no one will complaint that the publisher actually sells them (and doesn’t give them away for free), if a new school is built, someone has to buy land and pay the architect, the construction workers, the material. Yet no one would complaint that it is too commercially oriented. Most schools buy software, they rarely feel that it should be any other way. If we look at all this, it seems that the concerns of educators of the commercial aspects of Second Life are exaggerated. And as far as they are concerned about all the commerce going on at other places in Second Life - true, but there is commerce on many websites, still the school will probably have its own site. It is clear to them that the commercial site and their own site are two different things. It is exactly the same in Second Life. The university website and the Amazon website are on the same internet just as the school and the grocery store are on the same street in real life. So there is no reason, why a school should stay out of Second Life, just because Nike has an island there as well.
    - If you compare Second Life with other virtual worlds it rather compares favourable to most of them, if we are thinking about the needs of educators.

    For a list of similar virtual worlds you may like to take a look at this site. It is no longer updated, but still contains a good overview and some nice material. Some more recent virtual world - like HiPiHi - are not listed, of course.

    If you compare different virtual worlds it becomes apparent that it is quite unusual for them to allow users with a completely free account to create stuff, to give all users access to all features of the world without extra costs and - most notably - that creators retain intellectually property rights to their creations. Add to this the active support of educational projects by Linden Lab and it becomes clear that Second Life isn’t actually a bad choice, by comparison. Before you ask: LL isn’t paying me to say this. Alas. :-)

    Now finding the right virtual environment for your educational purposes will depend on what exactly it is you are looking for. One feature of Second Life that educators are often looking for is the option to have their own server, have complete control power the environment and make sure their students are safe from running into “bad” people or places. Some virtual worlds offer this, for example Active Worlds. But if you are serious about “non-commercial”, you should really try Croquet, an open source multi user vitual reality.

    - You may have reasons to go for a closed environment, but I feel that educators who look for total control over their environment pay a high price: The world of Second Life as it was created by its users can provide a most stimulating learning experience for your students, far beyond anything you can create on your own. By setting up an island in Second Life and encouraging your students to explore it you may cause them to bump into a few things that are not necessarily educational, but you will also give them the chance to visit virtual museums and other educational places set up by others, to be inspired by this beautiful and weird universe and to meet people from all over the world. Just think about the advantages this has for all language education! Native speakers of English, German, French, Japanese etc are only a mouseclick away and usually very much willing to talk to your students and thus help them to improve their language skills.

Thanks to all who attended the event and thanks for the interesting questions.

Topics: education, event |

One Response to “Presentation on Education in Second Life”

  1. Pedro Meya Marty - Agentur für Virtuelle Welten wie Second Life » Blog Archive » Virtueller Live Vortrag für Pädagogische Hochschule der fhnw Says:
    November 20th, 2007 at 12:09 pm

    [...] Teil der Schulung: Ein “inworld” Vortrag von Annette Pohlke zum Bildung in Second Life. Via Audiostream erklärt und zeigt Max Bergson, der Avatar von Annette Pohlke, die [...]


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