Published by Carina on 12 May 2010 at 01:06 pm
Black Kelley has been in Second Life for almost three and a half years. He originally came to SL because he needed a past-time that was quiet enough to do while his daughter was sleeping. However, he quickly became involved with scripting and has since found many other SL interests, including live music.
Black became involved with the Educators Coop when he met Bluewave Ogee at an education meeting, attended by some of the Lindens. At the time, Black happened to be looking for some land (which he currently uses mostly for building) and the idea of being surrounded by other educators intrigued him. A math teacher himself, he naturally gravitated towards scripting and building and to this day tends to spend most of his SL time in sandboxes around the grid.
Some of his SL building and scripting designs include an object that will move along the phase space of a differential equation and an Acorn Launcher. The latter is an acorn bazooka that will shoot an acorn at a target. As the once elected target of Black’s device, I was able to experience the Acorn Launcher first hand. The Acorn Launcher was created via a project for a combined calculus and physics course. The idea was that the students had to figure out the velocity necessary to hit an object. Black appreciates the freedom SL gives him to find both fun and serious mathematical applications. He works to show his undergraduate students how math can be applied in Second Life. Two of his students, that are engaged in an independent study in SL, are currently doing a statistics project with a focus on the economics of Second Life.
When asked, Black agreed with his colleagues that getting students engaged in Second Life can be difficult due to the steep learning curve. Most of his students have only heard one side of what Second Life and other virtual worlds can provide, so he not only has to break the stereotypes, but get the students to value SL and learn to navigate it. In addition, he ultimately wants his math students to learn to write and manipulate code. One would think that math students would be quite interested in this application of mathematics, but surprisingly Black finds a lot of resistance from his students when it comes to code. Black’s students that have an interest in computer science or the computation of math find scripting in Second Life enjoyable, but those students whose mathematical passion lies in theorums and proofs find it a bothersome barrier. Black, however, firmly believes that math majors in general really need to be convinced that being able to program is important.
When Black first decided that he wanted to bring students into Second Life, he didn’t even worry about what his administration would think and dove right in. His colleagues simply were not interested, and so he piloted the project alone. His colleagues had difficulty understanding that the strength of teaching in Second Life is the ability to transform the environment; to create. It is not simply yet another social software tool or a “fun” way to share power point presentations. In Second Life you need to let the students explore and “do their own thing.” You cannot control people in Second Life, and that can be scary for some teachers. There is a large body of work on experiential learning and mathematics, yet math is sadly often left out of the more creative lesson planning opportunities. Black recognizes that the extra work necessary to make mathematics engaging and applicable is hard, but its definitely worth it.
Since Black enjoys teaching so much, and is often found in sandboxes, he is always willing to help anyone with a question. He often gets questions and tries to help whenever he can.
Black Kelley came upon his name by simply switching his real life name, which happens to be Kelly Black. He knew that he wanted to use Second Life for education and thought the familiar name would be easier for his students to identify.
In “real life,” Black Kelley is Dr. Kelly Black, a professor at Clarkson University. He has a ph.d. in numerical analysis and his research focuses on scientific computing.