Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Lessons for Teachers New to SL

Carters Camp in SL
Location: Working on my Syllabus Wiki

It's been a busy week working on the House of Usher and preparing for Orientation Week...hence, no posts for seven days.

It might be another seven before I add to the blog...so it goes. School begins.

This year will mark my fourth time using SL with a class, and it will be my second use in a writing course that worked very well last fall. Here's some advice I've culled over my time as an SL educator:
  • Don't Cheerlead: US Millennials are goal-oriented and like "games with a point." This means that non-game SL will see odd to them. I prefer to orient students to the pedagogical goals of class, first. My students learn that the goal of the class is to teach them to reason to claims and not from them, all in the service of learning to write for academic readers. Students hear about SL as a new form of communication, not the "NEXT BIG THING THAT WILL CHANGE HUMAN CIVILIZATION." Ho-hum. When they find out that SL will not run easily (if at all) on an iPhone, they know such claims are hype.
  • Set Policies Carefully: I now have a "no goofing off in the lab" policy. The first time I catch a writer Facebooking or surfing, I give them a "mark of shame" in my grade book (and retain my good humor in class). In a British accent, I say "You have been warned" and show them the policy: every instance after means an absence and a note to their advisor and residential dean (we are a hands-on private university). I fail one student a year, on average, for excessive skips. If students use SL in class (in mine they don't) faculty may have to consider what constitutes "on task" SL usage.
  • Be There When They Rez: More than anything last fall, this made the engagement in SL better. I was present when my students drew up avatars and rezzed them in-world. I'll be bringing my class in through the New Media Consortium's portal this fall, not Orientation Island, precisely so I can be right there for the crucial first hour. My students make appointments for this time, and we sit together, in person and in SL, for my tips, freebies, and landmarks to the campus island.
Before classes begin, I hope to trot out some tips on writing good assignments about SL (using Rezzable's OpenSim build to Tut's Tomb as an example).

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