I think everyone should read the following blog by my incredible colleague, Laura Nicosia.
Laura strikes the nail square on the head with this. I was present to watch her work with seemingly techno-handicapped students who begin to learn something new while learning something new.
I had a similar experience this last Thursday in my Introduction to College Writing class. I have been talking about SL since the beginning of class and encouraging students to sign up for SL on their own. About 10 days ago I had everyone sign-up, or sign-in, in class. Unlike Laura, I only have 19 students and we meet in the writing lab, so access to the computers during class time is easy and there are far fewer students in this class to work with.
Following Laura’s lead I set down blocks of 30 minutes and posted the times in our blog on Blackboard. Students were asked to go to the blog and sign up for a time. I locked out the blog thread when the group hit two. I preferred more groups of fewer students. Like Laura says, it required a lot of extra time, but I will do it this way from now on. Watching the genesis within the students, coming to see and understand what a metaverse is (and what it isn’t), is worth the time dedicated.
Last Thursday I devoted the first part of our class to our usually opening writing exercise followed by some discussion on images, especially those produced by the media, and how they intentionally (or unintentionally sometimes) impact our lives. In class we’re talking (writing) about the creation and perception of identity and self. This is where the SL fit comes in.
Anyway, back to last Thursday. After our writing and discussion I wanted to meet with each student briefly, individually, to go over what might be missing, how things are going, etc. I told the rest of the class to sign in to SL, help each other, hang out, do things.
Nearly the whole class ended up in the Residence Hall area of the CHSS Island. That is when near pandemonium broke loose. It only too a few minutes before students were shouting across the room to each other, interacting, hanging on the beach, riding the jet ski, trying the first pieces of exercise equipment I put in the Student Center (more to come and some games, like darts, air hockey, and pool – interactive, avatars can actually play them!), comparing notes on avatars, and helping each other learn things.
I had to tell them it was time to go. Not one student had packed up his/her stuff a few minutes before the end of class. I walked out of that room with such great happiness and pride.
I will be at EDUCAUSE in Seattle from the 22-26th of October. Instead of canceling class I will be holding them from Seattle, in Second Life. I have to get up at 5:45am to do this; I told them I expect them to make sure they do what it takes to get online. We’ve had plenty of time to work out the kinks. I haven’t had to push too hard on this, each of them seems to be into it. We’ve been figuring out the technical problems together. And unlike that mysterious printer break down or hard drive crash or sibling that deleted the file, they are coming to me BEFORE the fact to get help figuring out how to do it. They are, well almost all of them, are genuinely interested.
I’ll report back after the two classes.