Mark Childs, Coventry University
I went into this talk as an open minded sceptic. Over the time I have been looking into Second Life in education, I have seen several demo’s of what people have done with it that generally never really show anything happening only where it happens. This has always annoyed me and has probably been the main driver of my scepticism. I could show people round any university but just seeing some rooms doesn’t really cut it. I want to see what actually goes on in those rooms.
This session with Mark has made me think that actually its what I considered to be a bad thing that is actually the entire point. Second Life allows you to create environments and this as a tool, is its beauty. Of course not everyone needs to create an environment as they just don’t need to, but for those that do there are several levels to which an environment can be made and can be interacted with.
Some of the examples given during the session included:
- Architect students can build a structure that they can then walk around as a person. I can’t qualify this but I’m convinced that this is a different interaction from the design environment of some thing like CAD.
- Theatre design students were able to take a trip around some real theatres as inspiration in how they might dress the venue for a production. This would obviously be impossible at say the Colosseum, half of it doesn’t even exists any more.
- Fashion Design students can design clothes for avatars and sell them within the environment. This means they can already gain a feel for what users/customers want without costly mistakes trying to physically produce designs.
All of the above though is of no use if the right sense of immersion is not created. I find it quite polar that so many people talk about a sense of immersion even though everything in Second Life is done with a 3rd person view of an avatar, surely first person would be better for this. I do acknowledge however that maybe seeing “yourself”, gives you a sense of “self” in the same way that you have a sense of your self in a physical sense.
In Marks research he has identified that the students that seemed to get the most from it were the ones that felt the most immersion. He notes that the people who felt the most immersion where also the same people who felt they got most from it. No surprise there really but if you can feel immersion then surely that means they actually got something from it (it wasn’t just in their heads) and so doesn’t it become a useful tool? Even if the participant gains nothing in a measureable, pedagogy lead way, feeling like you are in a place and interacting must give you some sort of benefit even if that is only at the level of stimulating interest.
So like every other tool is in an educators arsenal it is only of any use when applied correctly and used in a realistic manner.
As a brief aside I really hate the name Second Life. I personally think it attempts to give an unhelpful distinction between your “real life” and your “second life”. The distinction is that they are separate things, which is a view I don’t share. If you are on a computer using second life, the sheer fact that you are using it makes it part of your “1st life”, the 2 are inextricably linked.
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