I just got back, earlier this week, from the Second Life Community Convention (SLCC) in Chicago: it really opened my eyes to some of the more interesting things happening in the Second Life education community. And, by and large, the overall feeling I got from people there (face-to-face and in-world) was a tremendous feeling of collegiality, energy, and optimism for the future of this technology in how we teach and learn.
I first participated in the conference in-world. Jeremy Kemp invited me to the San Jose State University Island to sit in (stand in, actually) on a panel discussion on the strengths and weaknesses of Second Life as a platform for learning. Also on the panel were folks from Angel Learning, some of Jeremy’s co-developers who led the Sloodle mash-up project (Dan Livingstone and Edmund Edgar), and Jonathon Richter, who is working on The SaLamander Project to create a searchable database of Second Life learning objects along with MERLOT. While there was certainly a lot of discussion about the functionality of the work being developed, it did leave me wondering how this innovative technology really breaks into mainstream use among educators.
Fortunately, the next day – when I arrived in Chicagoto take part in SLCC in “real life” – I saw quite a few things I think will go a long way in answering that question.
First, we received quite a warm response to the idea of the Blackboard Greenhouse Grant for Virtual Worlds. In general, people I talked with liked the idea of linking the development of Virtual World/Blackboard integrations with education theory and pedagogical best practices.
Second, I discovered more about the investment the MacArthur Foundation is making in Virtual Worlds to “help determine how digital technologies are changing the way young people learn, play, socialize, and participate in civic life.”
As more resources become available for researchers, educators and developers for learning in Virtual Worlds, I think the more the benefits for mainstream educators will become evident. It was encouraging as well to see, at one of the afternoon breakout sessions, so many schools discussing how to build a Virtual Worlds strategy from the ground up.
I have to say, the optimism and palpable enthusiasm of the SLCC group really rubbed off on me – I think the opportunities for Virtual Worlds in education are endless. I look forward to hearing how users of Blackboard solutions are embracing these opportunities.