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Getting Started with Second Life

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Written by lruberg45!
12 Feb 2009
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This article represents a summary of your comments from the Pre-Second Life Tour survey.  Thank you for your honest feedback.  This summary also includes some suggestions for ways to approach getting started in Second Life.

Here's a summary of your familiarity with Second Life based on survey responses.  Most of you have had your avatar six months or less.  None of you have attended more than 3 informal or formal meetings in Second Life.  So far, your experience with Second Life has been basically to create an avatar, give it a name, and limited exploring in world.  Almost everyone responded that you are using Second Life for primarily professional reasons. 

Many colleges, corporations, and government agencies (i.e., NASA and NOAA) are offering conferences, museum-like exhibits, and 3-dimensional visualization experiences in Second Life.  Here’s an example of a college-level integration of Second Life (SL) into science education.  A collaboration between Adrienne Gauthier (“Ourania Fizgig” in SL and Real Life (RL) instructional designer and technologist) and Christopher Impey (“Cosmo Priestman” in SL and RL astronomy professor) that shows how SL can be used as a way for students to apply astronomy course content and concepts to a creative collaborative group project. Both Gauthier and Impey are based at the Steward Observatory of the University of Arizona.  
Second Life locations of interest and basic building concepts and skills were introduced to students in a course called “Exploring Life in the Universe.”  Early on in the course students were shown exemplary building structures in the SciLands SL area, in which all of the land activities are focused on science education.  I encourage you to read the full article about this project on the web.   

Three findings from this project are relevant to NASA DLN staff as you are considering how you might use SL to enhance your educator professional development offerings. First, this project is a good example of the kind of planning, technical support, motivation, and guidance that are needed to engage students and teachers in Second Life.  Second, this project shows what kinds of objects, scripting, functionality post secondary students with no required programming experience were able to within a semester.  Third, Gauthier and Impey report that students were excited to be able to express themselves through creative and meaningful use of Second Life.

A few of the Second Life locations and/or events that members of the DLN group recommended are the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and the Mars dust storm that included opportunities to control the virtual rovers.

When asked how you think use of Second Life could improve your professional development offerings for educators, most of your comments can be summarized in these responses:  
At this time…
.    I haven’t seen exemplary PD opportunities offered in Second Life; I don’t really find it a viable format for me.
.    Not sure because I have not experienced a meeting or presentation so I don’t know how I would feel about their effectiveness.
.    I do see a need for understanding another digital tool used by today’s generation.
.    SL provides a way to meet others to discuss the topics and to become more comfortable with Avatars I just wonder about effective moderation of given topic.
.    To increase my understanding of how this social networking technology can be used to reach students
.    It could help me find other alternatives for professional development opportunities with more of a technology focus.
.    I can see how SL can allow me to attend training events without my leaving my office and learn about a variety of aspects of NASA research.

In terms of perceptions of the greatest challenge to offering professional development activities for educators within Second Life here are some of your comments.

.    Time required to get started; technical issues and level of interest in program.
.    Training on how to navigate the world of Second Life-- having to cross the technology/generational barrier, and encountering resistance to new technology.
.    I think you’ll come across older folks who have difficulty understanding the mov’t of avatar in the environment, who won’t really care what their avatar looks like, etc.  
.    Furthermore, since you have to be >18 to use Second Life, most K-12 teachers won’t seen an advantage to knowing how to use when their students are unable to access it.
.    Staffing the tech support.  We are already at our max preparing and delivering the content via webcast/ videoconference and receiving questions during the event that another venue adds another level of support required.  Second would be universal access with school districts.
.    Finding people who actually use Second Life.
.    The technology is not as seamless to people we are reaching as we might seem it is.
.    Lack of understanding amongst the receivers.
.    Training myself to do it effectively as well as the comfort level of the participants within SL.
.    Other than “looking cool”, I’m not certain that being an avatar adds anything at all to professional development. Is all this fantasy world stuff necessary to have a virtual meeting?

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