Its conference season which means I haven’t been posting lately but I wanted to revist my post about breaking the SL High Learning curve. To recap, I have a class of 20 undergrads at Univeristy of Texas at Austin and I am teaching a course in Second Life called Working in Virtual Worlds. We meet once a week in class and once a week in SL. I have never offered a “training” session or a handbook or any other of the “best practices” often talked about at SLED events. In fact, i really wish we would stop using the term “best practices” in regards to teaching in SL. We should replace it with “some practices” but that is another blog post…
My class island was setup so that each student would have their own space, a condo. The first week of class each student had to claim a condo and by the fourth day of class each student had to use their condo to tell their life story following the “hero’s journey” and give a tour and presentation to their classmates. The condos were fully integrated into my curriculum for the first four weeks of class.
Task 1 – Claim a condo
For students to claim a condo they needed to put their name on it. I didn’t give the class any directions here; I let them fend for themselves. To put thier name on a condo the students had to learn how to import a texture, create a prim, texture the prim, resize the prim, move the prim, and place the prim on the outside of their condos. Putting your name on a prim is an easy thing to do but remember, these students had only been in SL for a week(including a three day weekend), and most had only been in for a few hours at this point.
The students used a variety of tools to create their textures. A few used PowerPoint to make a slide, then they exported the slide as a jpeg, a couple used Illustrator or Photoshop, some used Microsoft paint, but the majority used a variety of Myspace Banner creation tools such as Pimp Text or Glitter Text. I didn’t know about these tools and this is a perfect example of why teachers in SL need to allow room for students to find their own solutions. If I would have set boundaries or given them instructions I would have merely forced them into using my solution (Powerpoint into Jpeg) rather than having them solve a problem and create their own solution (Pimp-text).
All of my students were able to accomplish this task on time. I do not teach in a computer lab and the projector installed in my classroom only has a resolution of 800×600 so I can’t really demonstrate SL in my classroom because the screen can’t display the entire interface. My students were able to pick a condo, place their name on the condo, and take a screenshot of their condo with out having a training session, a meeting in SL, a guide book, a list of tutorials or any thing other kind of “training” materials.
What they did have was a short doable task, a virtual assignment anchored in a real life task, a visual product which allowed students to model their behaviors based on other work they saw, a “game” or rather a competition to claim the best condo (ocean front of course), opportunities to help each other out, and an opportunity to be creative. Creating a texture with their name on it gave each student an opportunity to express themselves to the class. All in all I would say this assignment had a high level of internal motivation and the successful completion of the assignment gave each student a little bit of self confidence in their ability to create in SL. By the second class day we started to demystify Second Life