I’m on the road, and so don’t have a lot of time to either write or analyze, but I note a major story relating to Second Life. Mark Kingdon has stepped down as CEO of Linden Lab, the owner and creator of Second Life, and is being replaced by founder and original CEO Philip Rosedale, who is returning. The metaverse is much abuzz about what this might mean for the future of SL, as well as the future of education in SL. I’ll weigh in again later. It has been reported by a number of outlets: here’s a story from The Metaverse Trib.
The blogosphere that follows Second Life has been buzzing in recent months about the number of people leaving Linden Lab, some involuntarily (Linden Lab is the company behind SL). It seems that it was the precursor to a corporate restructuring. We’ll see what it means for Second Life in general and education in SL in particular.
Dr. Matthew Trevett-Smith, a visiting professor of performance and communication arts at St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y., says Second Life Provides Real-World Benefits. He’s an anthropologist with a real sense of how our subjects intermesh in a liberal arts education, and he sees SL providing a means of bridging the traditional challenge of teaching critical thinking skills and broadening outlook/experience with the modern challenge of reaching “digital natives” who “will turn to Google rather than visit the library, or search Wikipedia instead of asking for a reference librarian.”
Virtual worlds engage my students in higher-order intellectual activity by requiring them to make and defend judgments. Ultimately, they are left with more questions to answer, a key outcome of liberal arts education. And as they immerse themselves in another culture — even a virtual one — they have physical emotional reactions to what’s happening on their screen.
Dr. Trevett-Smith isn’t arguing for us to replace study-abroad trips or other forms of education with SL; rather, he simply points out that SL is another tool in our toolbox, one with benefits that may not be more apparent without some deeper exploration.
This post is now three weeks old, which is ancient in the blogosphere, but it points out some useful info for educators who use Second Life, and it’s still valid, even though the “beta” has now been officially released.
While the article talks about five new tools for educators, I think the most significant one is the arrival of the long-talked-about “HTML on a prim.” The official name is “Shared Media,” and it’s simple to set up. The Second Life wiki has a good resource on the “how to,” which will eventually wind up in the Knowledgebase.
The gist of it, though, is that the “old way” involved setting the URL via something on the Land tab. In other words, the URL was tied to the parcel. Shared Media, on the other hand, is set in the object itself via the + symbol at the bottom of the Texture tab in the Build menu.
The upside: it’s easy.
The downside: unless you are using the new SL 2.0 viewer, you are completely unable to view the Web page. It would have been nice if somehow they could have enabled people with older viewers to at least see the page, but I understand why they couldn’t. (If it hasn’t clicked for you, look up a couple of paragraphs: the old way tied the URL to the parcel; the new way ties the URL to the object. Therefore, the older viewer has no way to understand an object with a URL tied to it.) Users of the older viewer will simply see the texture you choose for the tie-in.
So I’m going to make a texture that says “If you would like to see this Web page, please make sure you’re using Viewer 2.0 and then play your streaming media.”
Someone who does so will see not just a picture of a Web page (which is what the old style, in essence, did), but a fully interactive Web page, subject to the security restrictions the builder puts on it.
I think this will open up a whole new dimension for using SL as a tool of education.
Draxtor Despres has produced a detailed video about how architects and architectural students from all over the world are collaborating using Second Life, and how SL even enables them to communicate more clearly and meaningfully with client. I noted the participation of the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Southern California. If you’re not familiar with them, they have mad cred.
As Draxtor notes in the description:
Four leading architects from the US, New Zealand and Egypt discussed what [Pres.} Obama promised in his Cairo speech: an online network, facilitating collaboration across geographic and cultural boundaries.
The event featured was sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. That’s some serious support, however you look at it.
The Second Life College Fair is going on this weekend. (More information about the College Fair in general here.) There are a lot of speakers (full list), but three have particularly caught my eye, and I wanted to share what little I know at this point in hopes that it might serve someone else.
- Claudia Linden of Linden Lab will speak at 5 p.m. SLT (8 p.m. Eastern time), topic not announced yet, but Claudia is the liaison for much of higher ed in SL.
- At 6:30 p.m. SLT (9:30 p.m. Eastern), P Charles Livermore of St. John’s University in New York will address “WHY SECOND LIFE???” I particularly like the triple question marks; I suspect he will be getting really practical.
- If you can get yourself up on Sunday morning and don’t have church conflicts, I think you’ll benefit from hearing Dr. Anthony Curtis, a professor at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke (just over the hill!) speak about “Educational Uses of SL.” It’s at 7 a.m. SLT (10 a.m. Eastern).
All speakers should be findable at this SLurl: http://slurl.com/secondlife/International%20Schools%202/101/156/55.
Here is a great, practical post about using virtual space effectively for learning. I’m taking a chance putting it out there–now I’m going to have to try to apply it.
Comes a report backed up by data (from Linden Lab, of course, but no indication it is anything but correct) that gives a glowing picture of health for Second Life. In some circles, the drop-off in press coverage was equated with the pending demise, but it seems that SL continues to develop just fine. What I would read into some of the figures: yes, plenty of people try SL, get discouraged by the learning curve, and drop out within days. Enough persist, however, to continue solid growth, and that remnant may be enough to fuel the growth of the general metaverse (including canonical SL along with the various Open Simulators that are, basically, open source versions AND other virtual worlds).
A couple of highlights:
“Land in Second Life has grown roughly 18 percent from Q1 of 2009 and approximately 75 percent since Q1 of 2008.” The 75 percent figure is particularly interesting. There is always some bit of SL land that is not owned by residents, but it’s a very small percentage, so that sort of huge increase indicates a vast increase in actual user involvement.
“The inworld economy, says Linden Lab reps, grew 94 percent year-over-year from Q2 2008 to Q2 2009. Now at nearly USD$50 million each month in user-to-user transactions, the Second Life economy is on an annual run rate of more than a half billion US dollars.” At a time when the rest of the world is struggling just to get even again, that’s pretty healthy no matter how you look at it. And, again, it indicates some genuine involvement, even if it is only a small percentage of the people who go in to give SL a try.
That also means that if Linden Lab manages to increase the retention rate by just a few percentage points, the growth of SL could double or triple.
Aliza Sherman notes the cycle of Second Life hype, followed by SL bashing, followed by more hype, followed by declarations that SL is dead. Not so, she says, in “Second Life Is Social Media.” It’s not about education, but it is about the nature of the medium, and much of it has implications for education and other activities in SL, including the downsides. Take a look.
NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday featured Michael Demers, a geography professor at New Mexico State University, talking about how he uses Second Life to help his students learn more effectively. You can listen to the segment online.
Of course, so far I haven’t been able to get it to play myself. [sigh] Your luck may be better.
Update: I managed to get it to play. Worth listening to!