Second Life in Education is a hot topic. In that vein EdNet had a strong panel that included folks from SRI, a Teacher who has been using it extensively in her school, and a representative from Second Life. This is the first of three articles on this presentation.
First off, I find it interesting that Second Life is getting most of the visibility in Education when other virtual worlds (Habbo Hotel, Whyville, etc.) are doing far more with K12 age kids and some have more intentionally educational content on them. Chalk it up to Second Life being a media darling and to good outreach from their Education team. If you are interested in this arena some of these other worlds merit a look.
SRI – An R&D Perspective
John Brecht from the Center for Technology in Learning (CTL) at SRI kicked things off. He talked about Lakamaka, a project that focused on language learning in context. In Lakamaka the narrative thread is built around travel – you need to check into hotels, order meals, etc. They have a developed voice recognition engine which allows players to practice their language skills without access to native speakers.
He then shared the lessons learned from this project. They are:
Second Life is a big investment, but not where you think it will be. The software itself is free and content is inexpensive. It is expensive to train teachers how to use the new tools and it requires a high end machines (this alone is enough to give many schools a pause).
Focus on the interactivity aspects – that is where the power lies. It is a great tool for collaborative interactivity, immersion, visualization, and simulation.
Don’t make 3D PowerPoint sites. This isn’t a good environment for virtual lectures, it isn’t great for media delivery (even with high end machines), and chat is better in RL (real life).
Integrate it into existing practice. It isn’t going to replace what works well, so spend the time to figure out how it can compliment the learning ecosystem.
He also listed the challenges of working with Second Life. There isn’t a plug in architecture (its coming), security for teens may be an issue since everything runs on Linden’s servers, and it is relatively high maintenance since Linden does weekly updates.
Brecht also mentioned some worthy alternatives to consider if you are doing development work in this area including Croquet , Sun’s Wonderland , Multiverse, and private worlds from Sony and Microsoft. He might have added Muzzy Lane and Numedeon’s NICE to this list as well (both of which were specifically built for educational use).
Tomorrow – Ramapo Middle School – A Practitioner’s View