Today, I took my first class in Second Life called “Building 101” at 2pm EST. It was interesting seeing a class of strangers gather in the training area near the Second Life Library and then building things under the guidance of a librarian volunteer named Eiseldora Reisman (See her SL avatar / her library blog). She first showed us the basics of building by having us produce a cube then manipulate it by size, position and so on. We then learned to link objects together, add textures and even throw in pre-built scripts to allow for our creations to animate or interact with the users.
After a 1hr lunch break, we started an advanced lesson on building furniture, specifically sculpting a love seat using just one prim (i.e. basic 3d object such as a cube or sphere). As with most 3D games, building items with less prims means more speed for the end user, since it is more efficient on bandwidth (everything’s stored on the server) as well as the end-user’s graphic processor. While I was happy with my creation, I was even more impressed by what the Rambling Librarian managed to accomplish on his own, by creating a V-shaped guitar which he now sells for $199. Some day I’ll get there, but for now I’ve experience first hand the learning potential in a virtual world. While the subject matter was meta in nature, there’s a strong possibility to demonstrate things beyond the classroom in here. For one, a well-trained user would find it easier to visualize and share ideas here.
I’m not the only one in discovering this of course. According to Wired Magazine, professors from Trinity University, University of Texas at Austin, San Francisco State University, the Rochester Institute of Technology and Vassar College have used Second Life in their courses. Plenty have probably joined the fray by now and many have even established virtual campuses in Second Life.
As the RamblingLibrarian pointed out, it’s no surprise that Singapore’s Ministry of Education has sought to establish presence for learning in digital environments, further legitimizing the importance of understanding how Second Life could be use to further active forms of learning.
Apparently, in order to help teachers bring their classes to Second Life, Linden Lab donates accounts for each student, as well as an acre of land in the metaverse for the teacher and students to work and build on. Afterward, anyone wishing to stay a member can do so at half price. There are more details in the Second Life Education Wiki.
Speaking of Wired Magazine, they just opened their virtual offices in SL by throwing a virtual party today. Many gathered for the opening address by Wired magazine’s Chris Baker and Danny (didn’t catch full name), as well as a Millions of Us’ designer, Rodica. I suggested that they start a SL group so as to capture their readers who were present and they did so by creating one called “WireHeads” (search to join group in SL). I also asked them what their plans were now that they had an online presence and they said they weren’t sure yet. I told them I understood and that it’s always good to try something for yourself first anyway so you can discover the social affordances along the way.
Besides the Wired folks, I got to meet a Millions of Us designer responsible for creating the Wired magazine offices, which looks like a life-sized computer motherboard (See my photo / their clever design rationale). Philip Linden stopped by to check out the party and I got to ask him if they could allow for items that could be destroyed (e.g. smashable TV sets). He liked the idea and said that he’s seen artists do that before. If you’re wondering why I asked such a weird question, perhaps you might understand why in future. For now, you can read Rodica’s account of the event or teleport to Wired’s office to take a look.
Aside: With all this talk about Second Life, I really hope Linden Labs doesn’t turn into another case of AOL. Don’t overcharge… SL is after all an enclosed service that works over the Internet. Embracing the Internet, opening your APIs and making your virtual world accessible to the rich and the poor makes it more socially responsible and significant.