Second Life – using, not exploring possibilities

mqsl4_002I took part in the end of year ISTE Presenter fire-side chats on Friday (Thursday SL time). To me, some of the most thought provoking inputs come from informal discussions in Second Life, and this was no exception.

For a while now, I’ve been talking with Judy O’Connell, Jo Kay and Konrad Glogowski about developing a Second Life curriculum, that will allow teachers to use a ‘toolkit’ approach to developing work for students to undertake virtual Worlds.

At ISTE, I was engaged in a fantastic discussion with Peggy Sheehy about ‘negotiated curriculum’ – an approach to learning where students are asking more of the questions than the teachers. We also talked about how Second Life allows for a distributed classroom model – where it would be possible for that to be ‘facilitated’ by multiple teachers around the world. We thought it was possible to find some ‘third space’ for learning using virtual worlds – which has been highly successful in Quest Atlantis – because it has curriculum and measurable goals, facilitated by technology, students and teachers. Second Life still does not do this, though a range of TSL projects obviously do. In short, the efforts of us all are driven to similar goals, yet atomised.

We also thought that the model would suit some definition of 21st Century capabilities. All those things we know are important – yet are not on the test.

In a very recent NMC report, educators are actually increasing activity in Second Life. The NMC survey suggests

Educators are moving from exploration to use of Second Life for teaching and learning. More respondents report being involved in an educational-related activity in Second Life (increasing from 54% in 2007 to 71% in 2008). More than half report that the organization they are affiliated with owns a sim (up from 36% in 2007) and 74 individuals report in 2008 they own their own sim. This year 29% of survey participants report holding virtual office hours in SL; 37 of them (12%) have taught a class entirely in SL (up from 14 or 8% in 2007).

In 2007, Judy and I started SecondClassroom and TeenSecondClassroom, a place for teachers to talk and work on Virtual Classrooms and TeenSecondClassroom, a reflective space in which students of those teachers can form groups to talk about and evidence work. Now with over 100 members, perhaps there it is time to start meeting in Second Life and talking more about this idea. I would assume that this, like most ‘community’ approaches will suffer the Long Tail, however even if 10% of the group actively participate – then in 2009, we could develop this to a point where we could also deliver it.