10 November 2008

Week 10

Looking for online community: Virtual Worlds

Second Life username: Lillee Quintessa

Communities that exist in Second Life

Second Life (founded in 1999), is a 3D virtual world created by its Residents (users) that offers social interaction in a free-roaming environment. The Second Life Grid™ provides the platform where the Second Life world resides. Business, educators, government, non-profit organisations, and entrepreneurs can create both public and private spaces using the tools and technologies powering Second Life for collaboration, communication and training that provides user-created community-driven experiences.

The Second Life Grid is for adults only (aged 18+). There is also Teen Second Life which is strictly for teens (aged 13-17).

From my very limited experience in the Second Life online communities, they appear to offer a way to meet new people from all corners of the world and possibly become friends with them. I can wander into a cyberspace, check out the environment, products or services and be chatting to people from literally anywhere in the world.

Educational institutions can use the Second Life Grid to create a safe environment (by taking the words from lectures and textbooks) to create (or enhance) a truly experiential learning opportunity by allowing individuals to practice skills, try new ideas, and learn from their mistakes, designed to prepare students or employees by modelling real-world experiences using Second Life as a simulation.

Students and educators can work together on the Second Life Grid from anywhere in the world as part of a globally networked virtual classroom environment. Using the Second Life Grid as a supplement to traditional classroom environments also provides new opportunities for enriching an existing curriculum.

The Second Life Grid platform provides a powerful platform for interactive experiences. Over 200 educators from nearly as many universities and colleges use it for classes, research, learning and projects with their students, bringing a new dimension to learning. a large, active education community is engaged in the Grid. Harvard University, Texas State University, and Stanford University have set up virtual campuses where students can meet, attend classes, and create content together.

More local, a project “Second Life Education in New Zealand” (SLENZ) has been recently set up, with joint project leader Terry Neal and Leigh Blackall. Its aims are to set out a process for designing learning activities to achieve the SLENZ project objectives:
  • Identify learning objectives related to publicly funded and approved courses that are currently being run in more than one educational organisation that will be the basis of learning experiences.
  • Develop a range of learning activities to assist people to achieve those learning objectives.
  • Develop a list of reference materials and resources that will be used in the learning activities.
  • Details of any learning support services that are required or available for people to use throughout their involvement in the learning activities.
How I might operate as a facilitator for a community communicating on Second Life

To operate as a facilitator in SL I believe the overarching skill would to ‘be myself’(from Thought Leaders Ltd).

Essential skills include:
  1. establish the environment
  2. remove an personal agenda/s
  3. create trust
  4. respect diversity
  5. actively listen
Competent skills
  1. capture conversations
  2. check for understanding
  3. hold the space in tension
  4. balance content
  5. expose all opinions
Masterful skills
  1. ability to drill down on an issue
  2. shift levels of abstraction
  3. break deadlocks
  4. manage energy
  5. summarise actions
After downloading, installing and creating a username in Second Life and having wandered around rather aimlessly, I met up with my FOC Study Buddy, Elaine Dittert where we 'found each other' and went 'trekking' together. Lots of laughs and it certainly inspired us to start thinking of SL from an educational perspective. The type of tasks I could undertake (that are relevant to my current role) may include:
  • Hold in-person meetings without leaving my office, using real-time 3D collaboration
  • Conduct training
  • Offer seminars and workshops to include distant staff and students
  • Receive feedback from clients
  • Build a collaborative, experiential community around a concept
I valued the opportunity that Leigh provided - to be 'transported' to Jokaydia to meet other FOC members. It is essential to introduce this environment with minimal barriers and ensure ease of access.

Finally I believe we need to remember to take what is difficult in real life (and not to replicate what is easily done in real life) and recreate it in SL to experiment collaboratively and creatively.

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