Two weeks ago ABC News On Campus dropped by my office to shoot a quick segment about my Working in Virtual Worlds course. Of course the interview began with questions about avatar dating, funny avatars, and virtual relationships in Second Life and i was worried that i had been baited into a sensationalized virtual world piece. After the initial questions however, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the majority of the interview focused on the use of SL as a learning environment. Click here to watch the clip.
Last week after making the official announcement to my students that we had been selected to host a Carter Academic Service Entrepreneur Grant competition in our class I planned on devoting an entire class period to discuss service learning. I asked Leslie Jarmon to give a talk about her Alley Flats project and to discuss the impact it has already had for the community. She agreed and expanded the talk to incorporate a tour of the Non Profit Commons. During the tour she provided my students an opportunity to explore the NPC to find organizations or communities they might be interested in. One of the places we spent time at was Kiva (micro loans Kiva.org ). I’m copying a blog entry from one of my students to share her thoughts about the experience
A Cause for All Means October 3, 2008
Visiting the Non-Profit Organization island in Second Life had really shown me that a sim could really be used in positive ways. Throughout all the risque features and socialite parties in Second Life, it was such a wonderful thing to find some light through it all. It was a light that reached out into reality and actually affects the lives of real people. Such a light was this island and in this, one of my favorites was Kiva and its cause. I enjoyed see the faces of real people, real people that we can actually help through the awareness provided by Second Life. The Kiva office in Second Life did serve its purpose as a real physical office would in the real world, to create awareness and connect two worlds of people. It is the connection between these two worlds that Kiva provides that serves as the link between two people that transcends all barriers. It really touches my heart that I can help real people help trying to get by in life. I believe that the awareness and promotion of Kiva was very perpetuated especially by the help of Second Life. In fact, thanks to this visit to Kiva from Thursday, I decided to visit Kiva.org and will help to donate a loan to a farming community in Cambodia, which is where my family is from. The people in this picture look a lot like my relatives who have passed away due to the Cambodian Holocaust, otherwise known as the Killing Fields. So seeing that I can contribute some way to these people, who probably have survived the Killing Fields, just as my parents, brings a smile to my face. I am always all for a cause so great and I’m glad to see that there are more non-profit organizations promoting their cause through Second Life. It always makes me see even more that Second Life is really a sim of the real world in that just as there is always bad in the real world and in Second Life, you can also always find good within.
There were similar reflections posted by students last week many of which involved action on their part. Its surprising to me to see that one experience can set change in motion. If this last week has been any indication, I can’ wait to see how the students answer their service learning challenge.
On Tuesday my students had to turn in their first collaborative build in Second Life. My instructions for the assignment are below (from an email)
In your teams I want you to create something with your land. You will need a theme, an entry point, some type of navigation, and something interactive or a “feature”. Think back to the tours, the water park had rides, Bear Island had an arcade, The classic car museum was a Museum, what will be your group feature? How will people know where to go? How will they know what to do? How will you make your place a “living structure”? We will spend 15 minutes in your space on Tuesday, October 7.
Some possible themes are:
Small Town texas
The Presidential Campaign
A historic time period
We had a good time exploring their areas and and they learned some key skills through the process. 1) The difficulties of collaborating in a syncronous environment, 2) the Challenge of permissions in SL when sharing objects as a team, 3) thinking about “interaction” and “living spaces” in a virtual world (how do you design it), 4) hosting a large group of people (18 students + 5 guests). They did a good job and I was able to make a quick and dirty machinima of the their builds, enjoy
Its official, my Working in Virtual Worlds course has been selected by the Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Foundation to host their first Carter Academic Service Entrepreneur Grant in a virtual world. My students and I are thrilled at the opportunity to partner with the Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Foundation. Service learning has been a consistent theme in my Working in Virtual Worlds course and I’m proud to say the service learning component has been student driven. The official press release with details of the grant can be viewed here.
The Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Partnership Foundation has announced that the University of Texas will hold the first Carter Academic Service Entrepreneur (CASE) grant program for an online virtual world project that serves the community and contributes to student learning. This competition will seek to find the most innovative way for students to serve the community online in the virtual world Second Life.
I have a book chapter describing the Service Learning projects my students have completed in Second Life titled, Virtual Worlds: New Spaces for Service Learning that will published in In Service Learning: Linking Library Education and Practice The book is scheduled for release in the Spring of 2009.
In the meantime, if you want to see what i think is the best example of a service learning project completed in Second Life thus far, please visit the Alley Flats located on Educators Coop 1. The Alley Flats project was completed by Leslie Jarmon’s (Bluewave Ogee) students in the Fall of 2007.