Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Second life lunch

This is a bit late, but I have been off on holiday and rather busy starting up the new year. So, better late than never, a report on a lunch session on Second Life: What is it and how could you use it in your teaching.... It took place at Utrecht University on the 12th of July.

For me the most interesting question raised was: How can you use Second Life in your education and what are the benefits. I did not really hear a satisfactory answer. I can imagine a virtual world being useful if you wish students to learn matter in which the 3D aspect is important (design, architecture, etc) and the freedom offered to create (impossible) structures.
The social aspect could be valuable but Second Life still appears to be more suited to 1 on 1, or 1 on few meetings. Teaching a large group requires keeping the group together. A humorous anecdote was the example in which a teacher kept walking off to a different place. Students which were not actively following the session would be left standing alone while the rest moved on. Second Life still is a little cumbersome at times and it is not always easy to find your way about.
Writing this I do realise that I am (intentionally) describing the use of a virtual world in teaching rather than learning. Learning is a process which can be a lot less structured, less dictated and will often be much more individual. This is something which could be done in Second Life.
A final remark concerns the number of users in Second Life. The Linden Labs company used to boast a large number (millions) of users in Second Life. In practice the number of regular visitors is a lot less. This only appears to be a few tenthousands, so it is not always as huge a buzz as it appeared to be at first.

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