DaiLaoShi YifuDaiLaoShi joined Second Life in August of 2006 and wasted no time immersing herself in all SL has to offer.  She realized that in order to really understand Second Life, she would need to own land.  Her fearless entrepreneurial spirit led to the three sims she owns today, including a ranch in the Texas Hill Country, Cocoa Beach, and land in the Educators Coop.

She first heard of the Educators Coop in June of 2007 with an event they were holding at the time.  DaiLaoShi came to the mesa, met with the originators of the Educators Coop, and rented her first 512 x 512 parcel during the second round of land grab.  She chose one alongside the mesa and made it public to all, allowing her to meet many different kinds of people since her parcel was one of the few places that were set up to visit.  Owning land, she claims, completely changed her experience in Second Life.

Before she introduced me to her Educators Coop parcels, we first visited Cocoa Beach, her sim which boasts not only shops and a night club, but a castle, romantic hideaways, a shipwreck, little red school house, music mansion, amusement park rides, and so much more.  MerfolkDaiLaoShi brought me to the marina, handed me a mermaid tail, and we swam beneath the sea to her underwater Greek-inspired mer-environment.  The environment, one of two she has for merfolk,  is overseen my Poseidon himself with statues of hippocampus, angler fish, and even a giant clam cradling a pearl.

After the tour of Cocoa Beach, DaiLaoShi showed me her Texas Hill Country Ranch where we went horseback riding.  In order to ride the horses, you need to be a member of the Cocoa Beach Music Group, but once that is taken care of, you can ride along all the trails of the sim.  If you need to fly to get to another part of the sim while riding, there’s no need to dismount.  When in flight, your horse will sprout wings and fly you to where you need to go and even gallop across the water.

Horseback RidingWhile riding our horses, side by side, through the beautiful Texas Hill Country, DaiLaoShi shared her professional passions in Second Life and the focus of her doctoral dissertation: finding and categorizing instruction and instructional design in Second Life.  DaiLaoShi ultimately envisions a sim with 16 parcels, each representing a different form of instruction in Second Life.  At this location, a teacher that is new to SL can actively participate in the different forms of instructions, educating themselves on how best to use Second Life for their classes.  As DaiLaoShi enthusiastically pointed out, there are many different ways to use SL to teach.  Many first think of a transmissive approach with auditorium-style seating.  But Second Life can also be used for conversations in the round or immersive experiences like learning in a 1920’s Harlem Brownstone.  Another example DaiLaoShi gave was teaching and learning in a sandbox, providing a fully team constructivist learning experience, which also allows synchronous and asynchronous teaching opportunities.  DaiLaoShi also touted the ingenuity of the College of Scripting, Music, and Science which is an 8-story tower that walks even the most basic beginner all the way to becoming a master scripter.

College of ScriptingMany have explained how difficult it can be to surpass the SL learning curve sufficiently so that it does not interfere with student lessons.  According to DaiLaoShi, it depends on who you are teaching though.  She noted that younger students – those used to navigating video games and online environments – pick the material up quickly and are then bored since Second Life does not provide entertainment directly the way a game does.  On the other extreme are her students who have had no video game or online experience, making the simplest functions, like walking, flying, or chatting, monumental obstacles that take extra teaching TLC to navigate.

A self-proclaimed member of the “gaming newbies,” DaiLaoShi also got involved in Second Life to become a “doer” as opposed to a “watcher.”  She kept hearing about virtual worlds and video games and decided it was time to give it a try herself.  When she began the journey towards her Phd, she initially wanted to create an MMORPG for U.S. History.  However, once she became involved with Second Life, she realized it would be a better platform for her dissertation.  Once again, DaiLaoShi became passionate about the education opportunities in Second Life and provided more examples.  She asked me to imagine what The Magic School Bus could do, if it were in Second Life.  In Second Life you can go back in time, visit other planets, hold atoms in your hand and build molecules.  DaiLaoShi even mentioned a video game remake that a friend had created in Second Life of Asteroids wherein the player is actually standing on the surface shooting the asteroids as they fall from the sky, as opposed to the old 2-D version.

DaiLaoShi has also noticed an influx of the 50+ crowd into Second Life and she’s excited about exploring potential ways to pass knowledge from the “greying crowd” to the “gaming crowd”.  Many corporations are losing their older experienced employees to retirement and budget cuts; opting instead to hire fresh graduates with seemingly more education, but less experience and lower salary requirements.  While these decisions seem sound in theory, in practice the experienced employees leave with vast amounts of institutional knowledge leaving corporations informationally bereft.  An Instructional Designer by trade, DaiLaoShi was once contracted by a large oil company to research this very phenomenon.  Under the guise of having someone be able to do the job as a temp, she was asked to suggest solutions.  She provided solutions, but the contracting company did not implement them.  She suggested an interactive map that would bring up the forms and regulations needed to do each individual job, as a means of controlling the quantity of institutional knowledge loss whenever restructuring occurred.  Instead, the corporation opted for training, and 2 years later they are still struggling to regain what they have lost.    Administrators make the incorrect assumption that knowledge is in some repository or artifact, when it is actually in the people.

Instruction design happened upon DaiLaoShi by accident through personal need.  She chose to homeschool their five children, but was unhappy with the instructional materials available to homeschoolers in 1987 when she began.  After twenty years of homeschooling, she implemented many curricular changes.  After the last of her children were in highschool, she went on to get her Masters of Education in Instructional Design and Technology from American Intercontinental University and then went straight into the phd program of Education in Instructional Design for Online Learning at Capella University where she is currently working on her dissertation.  She is slated to graduate this year.

DaiLaoShi has and continues to bring her expertise of instructional design into the classroom, in and out of Second Life.  She designs how to make use of technology and education and she plans to continue teaching instructional design for both higher education and corporations.  She currently teaches in the IT department at the School of Undergraduate Studies at Capella University, a fully online institution.

At its core, instructional design is the intentional matching of learning theory and instructional theory to the instructional problem at hand.  With roots in the World War II era, instructional design takes into account the learners and the location of the learning.

Teddy BearDaiLaoShi doesn’t just design instruction in Second Life.  She is also quite the experienced builder.  She gave me a tour of her 6 parcels on Educators Coop 4, most of which she uses as an experimental sandbox for her latest ideas.  She even graciously gave me a beginner’s building lesson.  She is currently trying to make a teddy bear that will flop back into a sitting position when placed back on the floor.  You can see the progress of her teddy bear by visiting her sim.

DaiLaoShi has also offered to help with the upcoming First Annual Bluewave Virtual Conference in anyway that she can.  She has extensive experience event planning in SL, including participating in Second Life’s 5th Birthday and organizing the largest Second Life event to date – a fundraiser encompassing multiple sims and seventeen hours of non-stop music and entertainment.  DaiLaoShi proclaimed that Bluewave’s life, approach, and her part in the creation of the Educators Coop really made a difference in her life, and she would like to give back by contributing to this conference in her memory.

When asked how she came about choosing her name, DaiLaoShi explained that it is a phonetic pronunciation of a phrase in Chinese.  DaiLaoShi had the wonderful opportunity to teach a workshop in China one year, and the students there referred to her as DaiLaoShi which means “teacher professor.”  She loved the nickname and so kept it when she created her Second Life avatar, but it does admittedly cause problems.  Many assume that she is a fluent Chinese speaker (which she is not) and some won’t speak to her at all assuming she doesn’t speak English.  To rectify this situation, she created DawnRyder Wycliffe, which is the avatar she uses most of the time.  You can find DawnRyder Wycliffe at Cocoa Beach most evenings, as Cocoa Beach has music events seven days a week.

In “real life” DaiLaoShi is Diana Odegard Brauhn.  She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science, a Masters of Education in Instructional Design and Technology, and is completing her doctoral dissertation.  She currently teaches at Capella University.  Professor Brauhn lives on a ranch with her kids’ cats and dogs, 3 horses, and about 20 cows and calf longhorns in the Texas Hill Country west of Austin.   For more information on Professor Brauhn, and to view some of the papers written for her phd courses, visit www.dianabrauhn.com.