Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Why DO Educators Need Second Life?
Location: House of Usher
For a long time, I've answered that question "as a platform for making immersive simulations that are not possible, for very expensive, in the world of bricks and mortar."
Let's skip the "expensive" part, now that OpenSim offers pricing at a fraction of the Linden Lab product. But most OpenSim grids are also "metaverses," where there are a range of social users, other educators, creatives, and roleplayers. Running into the Bloodlines vampires in SL reminded me that neither I nor my students need those folks to run something like The House of Usher.
In fact, we don't even need a metaverse. All we need is a one-sim private 3D world.
I think this argument will sway many colleagues. Unless a course of study asks students to go explore an alien online culture, why not simply build a closed 3D simulation so students could log into a shared account with all their inventory pieces and appearance in place, go through a short orientation with a mentor, then begin the assignment? Next term, we'd change the passwords for the shared accounts, fix any broken bits in the inventory, and run the simulation again. If visitors wanted a tour, we could create avatars as needed.
We did something like this in SL last term, sans the shared accounts, since Linden Lab never got back to me about setting up a series of stock accounts that could be reused from class to class. I'll file a feature request formally soon, but I don't expect an answer.
Meanwhile, my next immersive literary build with Viv Trafalgar, to be launched sometime in the 2011-2012 academic year, won't be in SL at all, but in a closed grid where only invited students and actors can participate.
Pity, really. I like the big grid for socializing and meeting colleagues, but since our first-year writing program changed, I'll not be teaching a class where they need such a grid.
I suspect that this sort of use of 3D grids will play a big role in educational use, just as the closed BlackBoard system does in course management.
Who's to blame? No one really, though had Linden Lab set up private grids at a fraction of the failed SL Enterprise product, they might have cornered the market. Reaction Grid offers just such a service, for those who don't have the knowhow to host their own OpenSim servers on campus.
That's the future I see, not SL, in education.