Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Second Life 3 D Educational Tool

Second Life is a 3D world where participants can "create" avatars to represent themselves and create virtual environments to "socialize" in. Sara “Intellagirl” Robbins is using it to teach the concept of community to her students. She teaches students how to conduct and write research with a focus on ethnographic research She asks students to think conceptually about communities and to consider their own involvement in communities. But to gain true insight into communities she created a second life environment where students can, through their avatar, practice research and complete collaborative exercises. See her entry below:

8/30 Community Collisions and Cohesion
We have five dorms on Middletown. Each dorm houses three to four students who act as a team for peer evaluation and collaborative exercises. Last night each student was given a box with five avatars in it: Kool-Aid man, samuari, female alien, short green alien, and a huge grey monster. After splitting into their teams, each team was asked to select one avatar from their boxes to be their team costume for the night. After each team selected a costume they were sent to a well populated pselected a costume they were sent to a well populated public region in SecondLife. Their instructions were to stick together as a group and observe the reactions from those they met. They were cautioned not to be rude to people or to interfere with activities they observed. The reaction to their mere presence as a group in a strange costume would be the stimulus they would observe.

The learning goals:
SL skills:- team cohesion: students assisted each other in dressing, navigating the map, and recording reactions- saving avatars: students learned to save their appearance as an outfit before changing into their avatars so they could return to their original form easily- navigation: teams were given only a region name and had to find the region on the map, as well as selecting the optimal location in the region- boxes: students learned to take items out of boxes, unpack them, put the pieces into their inventories, and wear them

Ethnography skills:
- safety in community: students learned how much safer they felt in their own groups, even small groups of three or four made them feel more confident about exploring- identity and uniqueness: groups looked markedly different from those they encountered. Feeling unique can enhance a sense of cohesion in a group. When others are different we’re more likely to feel closer to those who are the same- respect for communities: students were careful to not intrude on the activities they encountered. They were told to observe while not intruding.

There was a definite element of chaos as each team selected an avatar and got ready to explore. There were no arguments, however. Teams worked together to assist each other. A few students needed a bit more help but the teams worked well.One team, dressed as Kool-Aid men, did get booted from the dance club they visited. Not because they were rude or obtrusive but simply because they were physically too big for the space (a phenomenon that one student compared to how morbidly obese people might feel in public spaces).

Relevant student quotes from the debriefing session:“at first we fit in, everyone one said to the kool-aid men, “Oh, YEAH!” but then they were bored with us….”
“yah the peopl ein teh club kinda said hey and then left you out of the rest of their conversations”
“i think people are more accepting in SL than in RL” (Real Life)
“i feel more comfortable being weird and outgoing here than in RL”

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