Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Podcast #81 - Second Life Skeptic - Am I Just Not Seeing the Potential?

UPDATE: A fellow educational podcaster from Singapore has added his take on the use of Second Life in education. Check out the Voyeurism blog and podcast epiosde #105.

Hello. I hope I don't stir up any trouble with my fellow edtech bloggers and podcasters but I'm a skeptic of Second Life and how I can use it as an 8th grade American History teacher. I have been reading about fellow edubloggers adventures in Second Life and I don't doubt the potential of specific uses of Second Life but I am struggling with how it can be incorporated with my current curriculum. I also state early in this post that I have not ventured into Second Life myself, just followed the experiences of other bloggers. Now, before I get a ton of e-mails with lesson plans for American History suggestions in Second Life let me explain my issue. I think it will be very difficult to sell this application to administrators and parents of junior high students. Many schools are still blocking blogs and banning cell phones and this seems like a light year away from their fears with those technologies.

A bigger issue for me is also at what point do we try to use the current applications we have to their fullest potential in class before we move to the next new thing? I don't teach a technology course and although I enjoy learning about new technology I also must reach some sort of balance in learning to use some tools - in my case currently blogs, podcasts and wikis for example - and continuing to teach the content I am responsible for teaching my students. Where does it end and will it continue to change every 6 months or so?

Please listen to the podcast and let me know what you think. Are you a junior high teacher currently using Second Life with your students? Have you experienced any backlash from administration or parents? Please leave a comment to this post or e-mail me at speakingofhistory@gmail.com

Direct link to Podcast #81 - Skeptical of Second Life - MP3 Format - 9:11 minutes

Podcast #81 Show Notes:


  1. There are a lot of teachers who share your opinion on the subject. SL is cool and addictive, but I can't think of anything that I can do in SL that can't be done using a different online resource that uses a lot less bandwidth and system resources.

  2. I am with you. I just don't see it. Maybe as part of a distance learning program. But not in an everyday (or every other day) secondary use.

  3. hi eric,
    thank you very much for linking to my post - i do appreciate it :-)
    i like the degree of thought that you put into each post - the habit of reflection is the hallmark of all good educators :-)

  4. First, thanks for linking to my post.

    Second, you are right that what you are trying to accomplish with student learning should drive what you do with technology. I heartily agree.

    Right now, I see Second Life primarily as a way to develop some professional development opportunities for teachers. With existing online venues, we're still missing the social interaction piece that most humans crave. Second Life can give us that I think. But there is obviously still the concern of those that feel uncomfortable with email and other web tasks that require following directions exactly to work.

    I will also introduce my pre-service teachers to it IF I can be sure they can access it on campus in our lab. I will have to talk to the tech folks about downloading it and go from there.

    A big help is that we are switching from Blackboard to Angel Learning Systems and Angel has a Learning Isle in Second Life.

    I would highly recommend the Greenbush Education Island - we are working to make it very teacher-friendly and it includes streamed in videos and podcast links to the outside web.

    Here's an example of a big plus that will attract at least some that are hesitant - you can attend part of NECC if you can't go in person because some sessions will be held in "person" in Atlanta while those of us not in Atlanta can attend online and feel more a part of the group (including asking questions in real time) than sitting at our computer screen at home.

    So, when you are balancing all of your time issues, wait until you see something compelling to draw you in. Student activities should be over at Teen Grid so that there aren't the concerns of the negative side of the web and that is still being developed and is much more limited access - ie your class can go to your island - but you can't just randomly visit other classrooms unless you have taken steps outside of SL to make direct contact. And then you get into the issues of changing the nature of the class that is online.

    So, I would suggest you keep it on your radar and enter when you feel ready. My guess is that more of the historical organizations will be there soon . ...

  5. Discovery Education Network is building a presence there that you might want to explore given your work with them already . .. :-)