I was on a panel today at the Western Regional meeting of Educause speaking on Second Life. It was a very interesting presentation because the people we were presenting with originally had their presentation entitled "Second Life from the Slow Lane." Imagine their surprise when they found themselves on a panel with John Miller! But the really interesting part is that while we are working with simulations and models, these two are actually working out the human dimension to Second Life. Their work in SL is connectivity rich while we are programming rich.
Jeffery Lamb is using Second Life with his Spanish class to basically create a "semestre abroad" approach. In Second Life, his students go to a virtual Barcelona and Mexico and talk with native Spanish speakers. He also makes them use the Spanish "Segunda Vida" client so when they want to change their avatar's hair and such they have to learn the names of the various body parts and colors in Spanish. This is terrific because the students then have a natural, invested interest in learning the language. And then when their hair is right, they are hanging out with native Spanish speakers. I found this more exciting than any of the programming or widgets I have seen in SL. This is what it should really be about -- people working and learning together. I want to bring this to our college and to our state!
Here is the blurb from the program:
Teaching and Learning in Second Life
Monday, March 31, 2008
4:45 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.
Room of the Dons, Lobby Level
* Geoffrey B. Cain, Instructional Designer / English Instructor, Tacoma Community College
* Jeffrey Lamb, Spanish Instructor, Solano Community College
* John Miller, Nursing Instructor, Tacoma Community College
* Sandra Rotenberg, Librarian and Distance Education Coordinator, Solano Communityt
This panel discussion examines both the process and product of teaching in Second Life from the perspectives of instructors and an instructional designer. Participants will see how instructors use Second Life to teach foreign languages and nursing, illustrating the breadth of possibilities virtual reality offers to introduce students to other cultures and clinical procedures. The experience enhances students' critical thinking, decision making, and diversity awareness.
Sunday, March 30, 2008
I have always been, and probably always will be, a big fan of Inspiration. This is a fairly traditional (but extremely flexible) concept mapping software. I believe that the traditional uses of software such as this can be great for communication, brainstorming, and as presentation tools. But one claim is that such software somehow represents how we think. Software packages like this seem all too linear and flowchartish to really represent thought; especially with what we are discovering about the nature of memory, that memories are not held in single neurons or even tightly grouped neurons but are patterns distributed over the whole brain. A single part of the brain can be damaged and the brain can remap memories. I am wondering if concept maps that are movable in three dimensions are not a more accurate representation of thought. (Is there really a connection between how concept maps communicate and the structure of thought?) I am currently experimenting with Personal Brain and with some concept mapping in Second Life. What I like about Personal Brain is that the user organizes links in a 3-d virtual space where anything that is clicked on is brought to the center and the other links shift around the new center. I find that this captures my style of thinking (meta-tangential ADD?) -- I will create some films using this and Jing and see what I come up with. Ultimately what I am looking for is 3-d collaborative mind maps and I think I have found some solutions in Second Life.