So… I thought that i’d attempt to teach using the online Virtual World/s of Second Life, or SL, with a group of keen Yr 9 students. Great idea at the time, and i am pleased to report, after 3 lessons i finally have things on track, up and running and moving along nicely!
I first caught wind of using Second Life a means of engagement and as a valuable teaching tool at the recent DEECD Innovations Showcase where i spoke to a representative from HTVA (History Teachers Association of Victoria), who were looking at creating Islands/destinations that had a strong history focus.
From accessing this place in SL, students could explore and learn about all things history and although the details i was given about this were a little sketchy, i believed that it was a great idea. I had also heard of Deakin University in Geelong, Victoria using SL with their Arts students to enhance their learning whilst away from actually attending the University itself.
The first hurdle that i encountered was actually getting myself and my students to access the SL Software and Servers. Our net provider had placed a block on SL for particular reasons, and with a change here and a change there of certain settings from the fabulous Tech’s that i work with, all began to work quite fluently.
The students were asked to create their own free accounts, which they did very easily, and then choose their avatar. What we have found with choosing your avatar is that you can change it to look like pretty much anything you want. Some of my students are assembling Angels, others Demons, some have heads of a rabbit and others have no legs! Quite bizarre but fun and engaging at the same time!
Once i’d pushed out the software to all my students via ARD (Apple Remote Desktop), which saved each student downloading the software individually, they all logged in for the first time and off they went! The first destination that students visit, (as do all SL users), is what is known as Orientation Island. A place that teachers use for learning the basics of SL, such as getting around by walking, flying and teleporting, looking at objects and zooming in, as well as many other simple, yet imperative to know facets of the program.
Now, having access to this great software and program is one thing, but obviously i needed an authentic purpose for it. A Teaching and Learning plan that would enrich my students some way, shape or form. I had originally designed the unit or discovery (as we call them), an Inquiry based teaching unit focusing on the Humanities area of our Curriculum, these being Geography, Economics and History.
So, now let me explain what i have done with my students so far…
The first session (lasting 2hrs), involved an in-depth discussion about the need to be extra careful and vigilant when participating online in Virtual Worlds. That there is a very strong possibility that people are not who they say they are and this can lead to all sorts of dramas.
We viewed parts of a documentary titled ‘TallHotBlond’ (i had cut this film down to edit out the parts that were inappropriate as there were a few…). This Doc told the story of a murder that occurred in the US several years ago due to lies online and people pretending to be not who they said they were! This prompted outstanding discussion and dare i say was a wake up call for several of the more ‘that won’t happen to me’ students!
We conducted several mind mapping exercises about being safe online and the respect that needs to be given to the software/program being used as well as the other users.
During week 2 we looked at alternatives to SL, as by this stage we were still having issues accessing the program due the filters in place. Several students suggested RuneScape and World of Warcraft. Both great online Virtual Worlds/MMORPG, but perhaps not designed for the purpose that i was after. The students investigated just how using such online tools could benefit their learning. They discussed and mentioned that it appeared to be an excellent learning tool (if we could get it to work), and something they were keen to try.
Once again we brainstormed and discussed just how we could go about using it for an authentic purpose and lots of great things were discussed, and some… not so great. Towards the end of the session we’d/they (the tech;s) managed to get it up and running and we then pushed out the software to the students ready for the week 3, which was yesterday!
So… yesterday i had developed a mini lesson that i asked my students to complete and then set them off on their first assessment task using SL as a means to engage and assist their learning! I have begun to find several great resources that will compliment what it is i would like to do with my students. These i have attached below.
I wont go in to what yesterday’s session involved, i’ll leave the following two documents to do the talking! I’ll be sure to keep you posted on the SL happening of MLC!
SL Teaching Resources: