I encourage all of you to send a link for this article to your favorite administrator, boss or superintendent (or all of the above). Send it to someone who you’ve been trying to explain the educational value of virtual worlds to, and then sit back and wait for the reply.
I sent this article to a few administrators at my school district today, and they all thought that it was by far the best article they’ve ever read on Second Life for “non-gamers” (was the term they used “non-gamers” or “normal people”?). What resonated with them the most is that this article is written specifically for the educator, using the language of their profession, and not techies.
The byline of the article “Creating new avenues of pedagogy in a virtual world” immediately get’s the attention of educators who have always asked “Yes, it’s a virtual world, I get it. What I want to know is HOW will the students learn in this virtual space?”.
Another statement in the article, “Among the most powerful platforms for game-based teaching is Second Life, a virtual world superficially similar to online role-playing games such as World of Warcraft or Sims Online but embedded with numerous features that can make it an ideal pedagogical resource” also puts them at ease, as they are all too familiar with the time sink that is World of Warcraft.
My boss read back to me in our meeting today, “Even from that brief description, the educational applications should be obvious. The ability to build 3-D objects collaboratively and in real time with others in the same world has enormous potential for teaching building, design, and art principles. Because Second Life is a rough simulation of the natural world, with meteorological and gravitational systems, the possibilities of experimenting with natural and physical sciences are endless. Meanwhile, the ability to interact with people from all over the globe enables political and cultural exchange and research in a safe and controlled environment.” (now why couldn’t I phrase it like that when I was trying to explain it?)
There’s a lot more in the article about education in virtual worlds that you can read yourself.
I could see immediately that this was the epiphany I had been waiting for. The ideas and questions started to flow after my boss read this article. I had my laptop handy, and showed her some of the videos I posted today to this site (look in the Video section). She was very engaged as she watched each one with interest, asking excellent questions with her newfound understanding and enthusiasm for these strange new worlds. By the conclusion of our meeting (which ran longer than normal), we had already outlined a possible “next project” to test out in Second Life.
I have to say, the experience of watching someone suddenly wrap their mind around something as foreign and alien as virtual worlds are to normal people (ok, I admit it, she did use the term normal people), and then leap into a brainstorming session of what else this might be used for was very encouraging.
If you’ve been looking for a lightening bolt to get your project off the drawing board and into (virtual) reality, start by emailing a link to “The School of Second Life” article on the Edutopia website website to that person you’ve been trying to pursuade. After reading this article, the door might crack open and light will shine in.
I guess we need to start tidying up our virtual neighborhoods, as I think we are on the leading edge of an immigration boom to our virtual worlds.