My Second Life (SL) experience was intriguing and frustrating. After exploring the EDTEC campus and the International Spaceflight Museum in class last week, I couldn’t stop thinking about the endless educational opportunities SL could accommodate. I assumed that there must be other museums of equal value as the International Spaceflight Museum; however, after perusing the “places” I noticed that there were few other places designed with such an educationally validating focus. Two of the most interesting places in which I explored were the “Friends of the Urban Forest” (FUF) and the “Science Center.”
The “Friends of the Urban Forest” is a unique landmark where you are can buy a virtual tree (for L$5000) to receive a real tree planted by “FUF” in San Francisco. You can plant the tree in their virtual forest or on your own land. Although there is minimal educational content on the “FUF” land right now, I can see the various possibilities that could be interweaved in these types of environments (i.e. informational kiosks on the organization and its mission, note cards with the tree’s identifying information, interesting facts and realist pictures of the leaves, etc.). I am also intrigued by the multitude of opportunities to explore the implications of proactive virtual realities and others with similar goals (such as the impact of the integration between online games and real-life business, politics, social responsibility, etc.).
The “Science Center” states that its mission is to “1) facilitat[e] networking opportunities for those interested in science and science content in Second Life, 2) [use] exhibits in the Science Center on Info Island II to create a directory of science content, and 3) provid[e] learning opportunities for those interested in understanding science and creating science content in SL.” Interacting with all the “Science Center” content would take hours, and it makes it easy to understand and empathize with players who are enwrapped in virtual realities for hours on end, day after day. Some of the interesting features the Second Life “Science Center” includes are: clickable icons that deliver the latest Slatenight magazine, an informational art gallery with areas of sculptures grouped by artist, web links to science-related organizations, and molecule structures that double as note cards explicating the molecule and its history. Here is a picture of the entryway to the art museum:
There seem to be infinite amount of educational opportunities for Second Life. I was disappointed by the lack of popular museums and educational places; for example, it would be interesting to go through the Louvre and see and read about paintings and artwork. The most important opportunity I recognized is that Second Life can afford contextual learning in realistic environments, which generally provide rich educational experiences. I am also fascinated with the social and collaborative capabilities and the concept of virtual campuses. It seems like a viable and obvious option for distance education and I bet it will eventually replace programs like Macromedia Breeze because it is free to use (although, I’m assuming you don’t have to pay to create a “place”). Of course, we would need to consider the implications of providing class in these environments (i.e. accountability, attendance, attention-span, unwanted guests, etc.).