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.
INF 315e life stories in SL

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.
Inf 315e first day of class
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

2 Responses

  1. Dr. Sanchez:

    I find this post very interesting. I am an instructional designer and tend to want to provide my students with scaffolding whenever possible. With the huge learning curve in SL, I find that they need a lot of it. I wonder what the student feedback was on this assignment and if they felt like they would have been better served to have some guidance in the beginning and allowed to expand on their own later in the process?

    Thanks for sharing! If’d seen this last night, I would have come to the event!

    Chris Crawford
    Silver Tomorrow (in-World)

  2. Hi Chris, my last “job” was as an instructional designer at UT-Austin, it’s great to hear from a fellow ID. I’ve been scaffolding the learning activites in my course since day one. I think the best way to write about this is with a numbered list of activites, each one of these activites build on the next. I assess the students by reading their weekly blog post 350 words and by looking at their work. Since SL is so visual, an instructor can “see” the progress of each student and student group. Three main events occur in the class – Telling your life story in SL, Working in a group to take the class on a tour of a location in SL, and Hosting an event. Each of the “events” build on each other and each of the steps below are used to scaffold the experiecne.

    1. Set up an account (orientation)
    2. Get to the class island (having a “safe” place)
    3. Select a condo (explore the island to find “the best” condo)
    4. Put your name on a condo(upload a texture, shape and rotate a prim, create a sign)
    5. Decorate your condo (tell your life story, learn about your classmates, express yourself in SL, learn about inventory, freebies, practice rotating and placing objects in Sl)
    6. Give the class a tour of your condo (present information, manage a group of people in a space)
    7. small group problem based scenarios in SL (learn how to work in a group in SL)
    8. With a team, give a tour of a place in Second Life(decide as a group what the best locations are in SL, negotiate roles in the group, group problem solving in SL, experience the challenges of communicating in SL)
    9. Build a bench and a flag that waves, (sit objects and flexi prims)
    10. Form a group and write a final project proposal
    11. Attend a project management class (learn how to schedule time, contacts, and building)
    12. Submit a project management plan (identify roles, tasks, dates)
    13. Mini-meetings with instructor (checking in, learning how to work with a client)
    14. Hold your event (manging people and resources, managing lag, pulling it all together)
    15. Write a working in virtual team analysis report (reflect on the process of workingn in a virtual team)
    16. create a machinma of your experiecne (document and archive the experiecne)

    Hmm, maybe this should be a seperate blog post….. Thanks for the commenting Silver/Chris, Oh yeah, and I’m not a DR. i just play one in SL : )

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