Digital learnng, on-line learning, Virtual Reality

Do I have room for a second life?

I think that I just finished one of the most technologically frustrating weeks ever.  I thought that some of the things that I was asked to do last semester in ECI 831 were out of my element, but my introduction to Second Life was not a smooth one.  The one satisfying thing I learned was, perseverance pays off.  I finally did figure out where I was going wrong and was able to finally get my second life going.  It probably didn’t help to see my son jump right into the program and he was looking for buried treasure under the ocean, before I had my character developed.  Oh, the confidence of youth!  How foolish it is to not tap into that natural instinct and ease that our students have with technology.

I decided that I better try to improve my attitude and try to make some educational connections with Second Life. What was is that my professor for ECI 832, Marnie McMillan, was seeing, that I was not embracing? I was surprised to find myself warming up to the idea.  Was  I feeling a sense of excitement creeping in as I saw what was happening with virtual reality?

I was surprised by some of the projects that I came across and could not believe some of the things that students were doing.  I realized after watching the , “The Social Virtual World’s Tour”, at the Puritan’s Guide to Second Life, that my children have experimented with virtual reality for years… I just didn’t make the connection until now.  My daughters, who are now in high school, used to spend hours on the Neopets site, when they were little girls, feeding and caring for their digital pets and buying and selling digital merchandise.  Now my nieces and other little people  do the same things at Webkinz.

I really liked some of the projects that I came across that students had done on social issues and cultures, such as ones described at the SLED Blog-K-20 Education Using the Second Life World, and closer to home at Regina Public Schools, Examining Social Issues.   What a neat and engaging  way to learn about social studies and show learning.  I could see a lot of potential for visiting and exploring places that are not right at our finger tips which could open up our learning world even more.

I just helped my grade 8 tutorial students study for a social studies test on the cultures unit.  When I was watching the following YouTube video posted by Regina Public School, describing their Grade 8 Cultures Project, I was really blown away by the amount of engaged learning that must have gone into that project.

I wondered, as I was searching around, if there was not an interesting application of virtual reality that could be used as a learning support teacher.  I spend quite a bit of time working with children of all ages on social skills, reading visual cues, etc. I was talking to one of my social skills candidates about virtual reality last week and there was obvious interest in that area.  Any suggestions about how this technology could be incorporated into my learning support world?

So once again, I am brought back to my familiar question…

How can I encourage teachers in my school to get involved with some of this technology that is readily available?

I already know that exposure and support are key, and in this case, I would not be much help to them, we would need major technology support.  With the right idea and the right approach, I think the school division tech staff could be talked into allowing a project to take place.

As always safety is an issue.  Exploration in the SL world and Teen SL would obviously require proper use and supervision, as the use of most social networking does.  I really liked the example of “why we need rules” illustrated in a post at in a post called “Why we need rules? Lord of the Flies Island.” The teacher describes a situation where a student wonders why there are rules that prevent them from building wherever they want in their virtual setting.  He found that limiting, and did not understand the reason for the rule.   The writer explains that previously, they had problems with students messing around with the projects being developed by other students.  He decided to open up a place, called “Lord of the Flies Island”, where students could build wherever they wanted.  The student  soon discovered that the new environment did not work so well and could see why the rule was in place.  What a good opportunity for teaching and discovering!

Embrace the virtual reality world?–I have not reached that point yet.  Can I see the educational possibilities and applications?-Absolutely!  Right now, though, I  have to be satisfied with my first life, because I am still not sure I have room for a second one.

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