Don’t worry, I am not going to do this every day, but thought today was interesting! I was invited on a tour of RSC South East Staff/Community Islands in Second Life, so last night was rather trying to get up to speed with the basics, so I could join in as much as possible!

Second Life 1

First part of the tour, checking out the virtual building which is intended to be a repository for materials – and as it’s built in a virtual environment, it’s not restrained by the need for doors, etc. It’s not intended to replace face-to-face contact, or to be suitable for all learner groups, but to provide another layer, where experimentation and learning are possible. In some respects the environment needs to provide a familiar teaching and learning environment, or even a familiar real-world environment. For example, the arches into the sandbox (experimentation) area are based upon London docklands, and the architecture is planned to reflect the mix of styles that you would get in any UK city.

Second Life 2

We moved on from the sandbox, to a street, with a lot of empty space… which is intended for those who desire to build/show off, for example, artwork and furniture. The row of houses alongside are designed as a space where narrative can be created, and the old school, which can be seen in the background, is based upon a 19th Century building, when mass education was new – as Second Life is!

Second Life 3

We moved on to The MayFlower, based upon a real pub in London, which is a gallery space where, for example, streaming video, graphics created by students, links to text/websites, etc. could be displayed. Such a space could also be used for an analysis of 17th Century life (how the building is built, how people would have interacted with it, etc). I asked how much of a learning curve would be required for students to learn it (as I’ve already had quite a steep learning curve!). “Halo” (our tour leader), indicated that Second Life was very much an 18+ environment, and only appropriate for certain types of curricula. For each specific group we’d have to evaluate the value we were adding (good old cost-benefit analysis), and very much see Second Life as very much an ELEMENT within a course, rather than the whole course (certainly now), and we’d need to keep it simple!

Second Life 4

We then went into the Swanky Pad, where I worked out how to sit down on an object I knew I wanted to sit on – and flicked the room around so that I could see what I looked like from the front!

Second Life 5

The Swanky Pad is designed as a space for online meetings, with the ability to use different types of media, and reflects the place we probably all wish we have, but can’t afford in real life (so this offers real possibilities for teaching, as costs are cut, activities could be carried out in the virtual environment – taking into consideration whether the learning objectives could be met in that way).  “Halo” indicated that he believes that Second Life is but the start, and there are so many possibilities available within virtual worlds. The expectation is that within the next 5 years they’ll be over 300 virtual environments available, which offer an extension to offline practices, where sharing and collaboration can be undertaken. We then went onto a Museum, which would offer potential for the module ‘Creating and Consuming’ that I teach, where students come up with a plan for a museum, but don’t build it – here’s a chance to build it!

Second Life 6

Towards the end of the tour we were taken into this large warehouse, which provides a large space which could host e.g. an end of year show. This show can be opened to the public (as I understand it, the public can visit it, but to take full part in the interactive experience, need to join and take up the challenge of the Second Life learning curve!). “Halo” indicated that Second Life can’t be a free for all, and spaces need organisation and management (and as DDucks said, trees!)… and that technical issues are to be expected as a part of Second Life. The final area that we were shown is Community Island, where 8 spaces will be rented (free of charge) to Universities/organisations as spaces to experiment and build… the only payment expected is that the research developed will be shared!

Second Life 7

Having completed that very educational tour, I’d been very distracted by the fact that I still had the default shoes on (although I love the skirt provided by Sufia). Last night I tried to sign up to [Sascha’s] dress store – look how amazing some of those are – most of the things we have no excuse to wear offline! So I decided to hop back there (worked out the landmark feature, I think), and fortunately was helped my Reni, who offered me group membership and then showed me where the free dresses were – so I put this lovely turquoise number on – can’t work out how to take the jacket off right now though! Have too many clothes in my inventory! Still no shoes here though!

Second Life 8

So I headed back to ‘Free Dove’, which Sufia had also taken me to last night, and I found a good selection of free shoes, and the chance to sit on the floor, and have a proper look at the dress!

Second Life 9

The owner of the shoes that I plumped for was Laval, and offered a teleport to her island, so I did – sat in this lovely chair, and thought I’d leave it at that, write this report, then write my lectures on the Suffragettes (hmm, now thinking, wonder if SL would be good for re-enacting history that doesn’t make it into video/onto YouTube!)!

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