For the past week or so I’ve been muddling around in Second Life.Â I’m traveling “in-world” for some work research, but I’m finding that this little project is raising quite a few questions … about technology and how we use it.
A quick look at my birth certificate will tell you that I’m nowhere close to a Digital Native (not one of my more favorite terms, btw). However, I’m oodles more tech saavy than the vast majority of Digital Immigrants. So, I get that I may have a bit of a “stuffy” opinion here. The digital version of “if it’s too loud, you’re too old” … but this is my blog, so here’s my general take:
- Second Life is a lot like The Palace (circa 1995ish). It’s a giant chat room. It’s 3D (not very good 3D, imho) whereas Palace was not. But, it’s still basically a chat room.
- The innovation here is really that LIndon Labs has figured out how to monetize this … you can actually spend fake money in Second Life and exchange it for “real” money. Rather than simply opening a a server location, you pay for land. That’s pretty spiffy … and, frankly, creepy.
- I’m told 35% of the people who are in Second Life go there for sex – and that the #1 money-maker is prostitution. OK … who are these people? Seriously. That’s one I just can’t wrap my head around … that’s a lot of people.
Now … that general description leads me to this next bit.
There are a lot of folks – prominent folks in education – who are touting the possibilities of using Second LIfe. I get what they are saying. I do. It has the potential to be a very cool tool; something that grabs attention and offers up all kinds of possibilities.
However I’ve not yet heard, in any of the presenations or readings I’ve done,Â of anything being done in Second Life that is different than what is happening in schools. The assignment examples are essentially moving “brick and mortar” assignments in to the virtual world. That’s necessary in the virtual schools situation, but in a traditional school it’s supplemental.
Forgive me for this but, in many ways, I’m as confused byÂ the proposed uses as I am by the people who are going into Second life for seedier pursuits. I mean … it’s fairly similar … aren’t you just takng the “real” out in exchange for the “virtual”? Same act, justÂ virtual?Â Yeh, I know, creepy and a bit startling.
I thinkÂ that I’d like to see “different” come to life in Second Life. If we are going to risk putting students into this worldly environment, then we’d better get a huge bang for the buck. This can’t be a situation where we allow avitars to do online presentations just because we can.
Educators need to think about life situations where an environment like Second LIfe is necessary … what tasks now in play in the global economy require understanding of and use of virtual environments? We need to design real tasks for that environment rather than migrated tasks designed so that we can use the environment. It needs to be about more than just engagement … sex sells but that doesn’t mean we should take the easy route!
I have some ideas, but I don’t have answers. I have opinions about what should not be done. Not sure what to advocate for, but fairly sure what to advocate against. It’s a tricky scene and I’m, all at once, intensely interested in and skeptical about where this path will lead!