How exciting to kick off the new year in virtual teaching and learning with this new community blog! Thanks to the tireless efforts of Sarah Robbins for getting this going – yeah! The need to have leaders in the community is palpable as new educators discover and add their own incredible creative energies and cumulative impacts. Sarah certainly fills a much needed niche in the rapidly transforming ecology of Second Life…. Indeed, it’s about niches that I’d like to make my first post:
I think 2008 will be a watershed year for 3D Virtual Worlds on the practical and potential applications for improving the world. This, based on the trend and other authors’ impressions. I would like to highlight the idea that while the continuous technical innovations in Second Life and other virtual world apps (River City, There.com, DarkStar, etc.) are breathtaking – the social adaptation and use of these innovations is also getting to be a real eye opener (insert list of awesome things going on in education across the metaverse here – or, uh, see Desi’s neat list above THIS entry). The challenge is – and will continue to be – for us to keep abreast of the rapid technological advances and stay informed of how the community is applying these innovations. We have a real need for forums such as this to keep us informed of changes on the horizon that will make for real differences in the way tomorrow looks for us. Aggregating and interpreting the news, informing us of changes within and across the increasing number of virtual worlds, and – what I see as paramount – creating a common language for educators in 3D Virtual Worlds to articulate efficiently what they mean, who it works best for, and how these learning environments may transfer (or not) to real-world settings is a complex and not well-defined task. Even while it’s so very important.
Within Second Life, there are a lot of niches within the education community being filled by visionary and hard-working professional educators – like Sarah – and by organizations (like NMC and ISTE) to build capacity for us to utilize these 3D worlds for teaching and learning. We have here, like the dot.com era of online learning, a need for experimentation and leadership to collaborate, even loosely, toward developing the appropriate DNA to occupy this new ecology. Someone to invent applications and tools (e.g. Eloise Pasteur and Jeremy Kemp), someone to model inspiring applications of teaching and learning (e.g. Desideria Stockton), someone to figure out how to induct newbies with grace, style, and innovation (e.g. Fleep Tuque), etc., etc. I’m not intending to make a list of who’s who (that would take a loooong time and would still be rather incomplete) – but rather, I mean to point out these examples in that there seems a set of niches that needs to be filled within this larger ecosystem for us all to evolve in a transformative way along with the assumed speed at which these 3D Virtual Worlds are changing, innovating, and interconnecting. Each “SLED Niche” being identified and occupied by a hard-working, technology wielding and visionary educator – working on the faith of their vision and without the clearest picture possible of what everyone else is doing.
The SaLamander Project – which we’re coordinating at The Center for Advanced Technology in Education at The University of Oregon – is a project that I hope will fill one of the niches needed by the SLED Community:
a) What ARE the best examples of teaching / learning builds in Second Life? — by what criteria?
b) Where do you FIND these examples?
SaLamander is a project that aims to create a community of Second Life educators – ALL of them, hopefully! – to identify WHAT is useful in Second Life for teaching and learning and to place them into categories that other educators may find most relevant. To do this, we have four interconnected elements:
- The SaLamander Sloog HUD: a free HUD that SLED community members may use to identify and describe learning materials.
- Sloog website: The HUD provides you each with a personal list of your own SL Education sites and tags
- SaLamander Community Wiki: The Sloog website feeds the Community Wiki – which provides a growing database of SLED places for people to check out, discuss, and vote on…
- MERLOT: the SaLamander Community members that vote the “best” SLED materials (ranking votes allowed one time per registrant for each SaLamander entry).
Here’s a 1st version of our video demonstrating the SaLamander Process…. Hope you like it! and we REALLY want your feedback!
~ Jonathon Richter / Wainbrave BernalWritten by