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I hear a lot of scepticism about 3D worlds in general and Second Life in particular; and as your piece points out, there are lots of users who enrol in second life and find little to do there.

I think we may be missing the point here. When I watch the next generation of computer users at home playing on their Xbox / PSP/ Wii etc, the most prevalent graphical user interface in use is a first person 3D perspective.

While I understand that the largest market for this kind of interface is within the entertainment and games sector, we are starting to see this technology move into other areas. Two examples: GPS satellite navigation systems, the more sophisticated of which are hand-held and provide context while their users walk around city streets; and Google Earth with it's spinning globe and layers.

As educationalists we still perceive ICT as a device that provides ‘smart paper’, I have a suspicion that as the world gets more instrumentation (RFID, smart materials, live data feeds) these 3D environments will become workplaces for many, and the natural interface for such workplaces will be 3D.

Dick

Readers may be interested in Sun's 3D environment, MPK20: "On any given day, over 50% of Sun's workforce is remote. MPK20 is a virtual 3D environment in which employees can accomplish their real work, share documents, and meet with colleagues using natural voice communication." http://research.sun.com/projects/mc/mpk20.html

Unfortunately the link does not specify the visit rates and durations, but perhaps the information is somewhere in the public domain.

Unscientific though it may be, I found that the statistics above are a vindication of my view that there is generally relatively little to do in Second Life. However, like Dick Moore I remain upbeat regarding the eventual integration of virtual environments into our (developed world?) lives.

Incidentally, Sun's OSS Project Wonderland 3D engine may be the basis of a free virtual world that is sometimes discussed in the context of UK education. I'd welcome contact from anyone interested in this possibility (mark * cs.man.ac.uk).

You have to remember (i) this is early days, (ii) stuff in SL is mainly built by residents, (iii) levels of activity are event-driven (as per most RL education). Does it seem likely that the 3700+ educators on the SLED list won't be creating compelling educational material for their students? See the following and a series of prior posts for my take: http://tidalblog.blogspot.com/2007/08/now-im-in-wrong-metaverse.html

==
Thanks for this Peter. To me it seems likely that some of them will be, for sure. And, it has to be said, the Wired piece was questioning the business value of Second Life, which is not the same as it questioning its potential as a learning environment.

Seb
13/8/2007

This is perhaps a painfully obvious observation, but like in real life, I would expect that folks will gravitate to activities that they find interesting in Second Life. In an educational environment I think that generating interest requires some good learning design, and most of what I have seen in Second Life I have not found particularly inspiring. I am with Dick on this also, I think that virtual environments like Second Life offer significant potential, but that as educators, we are not quite up to the task yet. At least we are not as good at it as video game designers.

Can anybody cite some well-designed learning activities in Second Life that we should get excited about (and would expect learners to get excited about)?

In a recent conversation with Sheila MacNeil of JISC CETIS pointed me to an activity that she is organizing which includes descriptions and links to some interesting education projects in SL. http://wiki.cetis.ac.uk/EduservCETIS_20Sep2007


Ken

For a broad overview see http://sleducation.wikispaces.com/educationaluses . It can be quite difficult to judge SL education from the outside looking in as one rarely has the chance to observe classes or learning activities in progress. Similarly, we rarely know the intended learning outcomes. Two projects worth checking out are Desideria Stockton & Eloise Pasteur's Literature Alive! (multiple builds) and Max Chatnoir's Genome Island. In both cases most of the work was unfunded initially and in Desi/Eloise's case has depended on the generosity of other residents in giving them land for their builds. I believe Max's department now pays her island's rent. Good though I think both projects are, they are also relatively young and IMHO one shouldn't rush to judgement; SL education needs time to mature.

For folk who want to see a report that provides some of the evidence to support our cautious optimism about the educational potential of 3D Virtual Worlds check out the schome-NAGTY Teen Second Life Pilot Final Report which you can download from http://kn.open.ac.uk/public/document.cfm?docid=9851

Great to see some names I recognise in this list!

Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology has recently purchased an island in Second Life and named it Koru. The Open Polytechnic of New Zealand (Open Educators), Weltec and other institutions have rented land here and are creating a collaborative environment for Kiwi Educators (the name of their SL group) to share their experiences. This group meets on Sunday at 8.00pm NZ time.

I've had to describe Second Life to people a couple of times and their response is usually along the lines of "so it's a bit like World of Warcraft with all the good bits taken out?"

“Yes”, I have to honestly reply, “it is a bit of an anaemic pachyderm.”

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