By Heather Johnson
The popular virtual world of Second Life attracts online gamers, former Sim City addicts, entrepreneurs-in-training, and tech-savvy teachers. The educational possibilities through Second Life allow teachers and employers to reach out to students beyond their traditional classrooms and school districts, expose young children to global issues and new friends around the world, design their own avatars and environments for highly customized training sessions and interactive discussions, practice real-world skills and manage real-life situations in a safe environment, and most of all keep students engaged in a technologically-driven society. For tips, tricks and resources that will help you make the most of the virtual world, check out the list below.
Employers and educators who want to train new hires or test their students can use Second Life in the following ways.
- Use Second Life for employee training: The Second Life Grid is a space where businesses and schools can set up their own virtual board rooms. Use the Grid to organize an employee training session that’s more interactive than a pamphlet.
- SL Messenger: SL Messenger brings together all of your online communities with Second Life. You can share twitts, photos and more through AIM, Gtalk, MSN and Second Life, so it’s easy to add instructions, training tools and more to your space wherever you are.
- Literature Alive! in Second Life: This site collects resources for educational training programs designed in Second Life, especially for reading, writing and literature courses.
- K-Foundry: This site is great for educators who want to host a training session or lecture but aren’t concerned with managing land. The system awards a space for free as long as you aren’t using the space for commercial use.
- Set up your own island: Set up your own teaching or instructional island in Second Life to organize training materials and tests for your employees.
Blogs and Websites
Turn to these blogs for tips, services and tools when setting up a learning space in Second Life.
- SLED Blog: This blog has lots of "bright ideas" and more for teachers using Second Life.
- Second Life Education Wiki: This site is "Linden Lab’s official resource for educators in Second Life." Access information about special education pricing for private islands, academic research, presentations, competitions and more.
- Sub Dimension Studios: If you don’t have time to create your own textures or animation in Second Life, consider using the services of this company.
- Resident Resources: The Second Life community features a Resident Resources page, full of links and tips for managing land, designing animation, working audio and music, and more.
- Educators Coop: This blog is dedicated to exploring new ways and tools that help teachers maximize Second Life and virtual worlds to reach out to their students.
Examples of Second Life in Education
Follow these real-life Second Life projects from Stanford, Harvard Law School and even a New York middle school to start your own studies or get students of all ages involved in Second Life.
- Virtual Human Interaction Lab: Stanford University’s study explores how human behavior in a virtual setting affects their behavior in real-life society. Consider using this study as an introduction to your own sociological study.
- Suffern Middle School in Second Life: This school project undertaken by students at Suffern Middle School uses the Teen Grid in Second Life to address math skills, social studies and community planning, building and more.
- Digital Collaboration for Architects: This interdisciplinary class taught by Terry Beaubois at Montana State University - Bozeman explores how technology and virtual reality encourage "multidisciplinary, collaborative, planning and design of sustainable communities."
- CyberOne: Law in the Court of Public Opinion: Visit this website for information on the class Law in the Court of Public Opinion that was offered by Harvard Law School and the Harvard Extension School. In the class, students consider "many different media technologies to understand how their inherent characteristics and modes of distribution affect the arguments that are made using them." One of the technologies studied is Second Life.
- Money and Design: This Design Economics class uses Second Life as a virtual platform for future entrepreneurs and business designers to practice their skills.
More Tips and Ideas
From Campus: Second Life to designing your own planetarium to creating games for history class, this list features even more tips and fun ideas.
- Campus: Second Life: This program gives college students in certain fields one free acre of land in Second Life so that they can practice the skills and theories they learn in class in a virtual setting.
- Use SL for distance learning: Open up your class to the world when you use Second Life for virtual lectures, collaboration and assignments.
- Set up an exhibit: Read about how The International Spaceflight Museum shares exhibits through Second Life, including a planetarium, model space shuttle and a training game.
- Introduce a history project: The Gold Rush game in SL immerses players and students into the time and atmosphere of the California Gold Rush. History teachers can create similar games so that students can interact with each other based on the period’s social structures, economic landscape and more.
- Share information: You don’t have to be a teacher to set up your own Second Life exhibit and start a discussion. Remember Me features an exhibit and photos about Alzheimer’s Disease in SL and directs visitors to a documentary and resources about Alzheimer’s.
- Ecology Project: Use this ecology project as an example to teach students about the environment. You can even set up specific weather patterns and watch as plants, insects and birds coexist.
- English composition class: Ball State University’s English 104 in Second Life uses the virtual world to teach research skills and critical thinking.
- Teach kids to think globally: The Kids Connect program encourages collaboration between students in New York and Amsterdam to teach them new skills in theatre and the arts, as well as exposing them to a global partnership.
- Give web developers and designers a place to play: SL is a great platform to let let digital media and web development students a chance to experiment with their skills. Ask them to create new scripts and applications for SL as class assignments.
- Learn about new cultures and languages: Read about the PacificRim Exchange, which hosts a private island in the Teen Grid that serves as a platform for students from schools in the Pacific Rim to connect and learn about new customs and countries.
These tutorials and guides are designed especially for educators who want to create an effective learning space in Second Life.
- Second Life Teacher Training Videos: Teachers get their own instructional videos for Second Life here.
- Video Tutorials: Educators needing a little extra direction when using Second Life can watch over 150 different video tutorials for help with voice chat, land, and more.
- Educational Uses of Second Life: This wikispaces page features all kinds of examples of projects used for educational purposes.
- RezEd: RezEd, or "the hub for learning and virtual worlds," features discussions, podcasts, articles and a community designed to help educators make the most of virtual learning technologies, including Second Life.
- Second Life Mixed Reality: Green Screen in RL and SL: This article shares tips on integrating real life video footage into your Second Life world, giving you more opportunities for introducing new characters and lessons.
- Second Life: Educators Working With Teens: Learn about closed and open estates, get ideas for Teen Second Life projects and more to help you set up a learning space for teens in SL.
- Second Life: Educational Possibilities of a Massively Multiplayer Virtual World: This report has tips for teaching in Second Life and explores how traditional teaching theories have evolved to collaborate with technology and virtual media.
- 13 Tips for Virtual World Teaching: Keep these tips in mind when building up your SL classroom.
- Resources for Educators: The University of Cincinnati has put together this list for teachers who want to use Second Life in their classrooms. The list includes tips for getting started in SL, connecting with other SL educators, and finding examples of successful SL policies and projects.
- onrez: Shop for animation tools, accessories and designs here.
Second Life Tools for Teaching
Learn how to create your own prims, make use of virtual camera tools and discover SL features to make the most of your virtual classroom.
- Media on a Parcel: Media on a Parcel lets you share movies, music and other medium with your residents. Teachers can use this tool instead of putting books or DVDs on reserve in the library, and students can access the material whenever they want.
- Virtual camera tools: Make use of the camera tools in SL to "engage students in digital storytelling, and recording and reflecting their work in Second Life," as recommended on the SL wikispaces site.
- MyNotes Profile Tab: This post from the SLED Blog recommends using this tool for class management on SL.
- Sculpted Prims: Learn how to make your own sculpted prims so that your learning space is completely customized to your training session or lesson plan.
- SL Exchange: Use SL Exchange to teach students about budgeting, e-commerce and general business principles.
- SL Pulse: Advertise your project or collaboration by sending a press release to SL Pulse. It’s free and open to any stories or news related to Second Life.
- Merlin Rocket Server: This "media management system" lets you share, publish and broadcast all kinds of multimedia to your SL space, giving you the chance to use more resources when you teach.
- Toolbar for Second Life: Get all your SL buttons and links in your toolbar with this download.
- Gridocity: Real-life businesses have set up accounts in Second Life to advertise their services and products, which means that you can search for educational tools you need without having to leave SL.
- The Wall SL: History teachers may want to direct their students to The Wall SL, which is a replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
- Fabjectory: If you want to bring your Second Life project into real-life, order a physical replica of your avatar from this company.
These teaching tools help distance learning educators, college professors and other teachers communicate with their students through Second Life more easily and effectively.
- KitCom: KitCom streamlines your chats through Second Life.
- ION Communication: This communication system notifies your students and residents when you’re online so they know whether or not they can reach you for questions about an assignment.
- SL Profiles: Set up a profile for your avatar and your real-life self so that students and other SL players can learn more about you, your class and your credentials.
- Babbler and De-Babbler: Use these language translation tools to communicate with students all over the world.