Living La Vida Segunda
One of the assignments for my current Master’s class was to spend some time in Second Life. We were asked to explore five specific islands along with five islands of our choice as long as they related to education in some way. This was a fun little journey for my avatar Benji Tomorrow.
I joined Second Life about year and a half ago to see what the hype was about. After creating Benji, I had him wander and fly around a bit on Orientation Island. It was fun for a little bit, but after a while I got bored. I think I went back maybe one time after that. I just couldn’t see any value of pushing this avatar around for hours without any specific results. I’m all for trying and evolving the use of new technologies, but my first life has been so busy, so to spend unnecessary time in Second Life seemed like an unneeded distraction.
This new and required opportunity for my class created a second chance for Second Life to show me some value. After doing a couple of software updates (it had been a long time since I last signed in), I got going. Benji appeared in what seemed to be a new Orientation Island. I wandered a bit and got used to moving and flying around. Some of the other controls had been updated so I figured those out, as well.
The five required places I had to visit were Kuttara Zen, Koru, Teaching Island, Weather Island, and EdTech Island. They were all interesting. My favorite, though, was Koru. It was a bizarre little place. It was night time, so the place had mood and ambience. Benji definitely enjoyed it.
The five places I chose to visit were International Schools Island, Dublin, Galveston Isle, Virtual Morocco, and Numbakulla Island. All had their unique qualities and were fun to cruise around. My favorite of these five was Numbakulla. It was billed as an immersive game. I didn’t follow the game (it wasn’t even clear what to do), but it definitely was worth the meander through it’s surreal, turquoise flavored architecture.
The crazy thing about all of these 10 places is that they were all empty- not an avatar to be found! When I signed in, it said that there were 55,000 people in Second Life at that moment. I have no idea where they all were, but they weren’t in the places Benji visited. It was kind of like being in an episode of the Twilight Zone.
There is some educational value in Second Life. It can be a more interesting place to meet with students and educators from around the world, being an alternative to video conferencing. There are also game-like, problem solving activities that can be done (like what is done on Numbakulla Island, apparently). I also thought the cultural immersion places like Dublin, Galveston, and Morocco are great ideas. These could be used to get a sense of what the real place is like either for student and/or tourist benefit. I think there some islands that are replicas of historical places, which would also be great for students to experience and explore.
I’m a little more enthusiastic about Second Life now. I still don’t plan on spending hours in it, but as it continues to evolve I’ll definitely keep an eye on educational uses.