Published by Joe Sanchez on 04 Sep 2008

Describe Second Life in one word

one word for Second Life (straight)

My students began logging into Second Life on Tuesday night and most of them have spent between 1-2 hours in SL. In class today (Thursday) i asked them to use one word to describe their experience so far. They came up with interesting words that reinforce the work I’ve done on the Second Life learning curve, particularly in regards to the user experience.

  • Boring
  • complicated
  • frustrating
  • addicting
  • awkward
  • malleable
  • tedious
  • porn
  • advanced
  • empty
  • ugly
  • friendly
  • overwhelming
  • As a caveat, I wanted my students to have a true first time experience so i had them log in to SL on their own and they started at orientation Island. For this particular course since one of our goals is to evaluate virtual worlds as a work platform it is important for me to have the students experience what an average user experiences when they first join Second Life. They need to understand why virtual worlds and SL in particular have such a low retention rate for first time users. If this class wasn’t an information studies course I would not have them go through (dis)orientation, instead I would have them start at NMC and I would be there to immeadiatly teleport them to my class island (Similar to the way we setup the Girlstart 4 day Teen SL camp)

    Why are these words important? First we need to acknowledge that the common perception around the SLED community that students will naturally (as in digital native…) love Second Life is a myth. This is my six semester teaching undergrads in Second Life and i can tell you that most students are disappointed with SL and they expect much more from SL than what is there. Students explained that the words “boring”, “empty”, “ugly” referred to the graphics, the “feel” of SL, and low polygon count of the world when compared to online games they have played. A few of them laughed at the “stretched-out” textures that were plaster all over the virtual world. Seriously, these students are not impressed by the graphics of Second Life in the same kind of ways that educators are. One student said, Sl looks a little better than Runscape but nowhere near early Everquest.

    This part is for Linden Lab… It’s been a few years now that I’ve been tracking the user experience of students and they are still saying the same things about the interface and client…Listen to these words – “frustrating”, “tedious”, “awkward”, “complicated”. The students were describing how difficult it is to leave orientation island and to understand the metaphors of an inventory, islands, welcome area, orientation area, base hair and prim hair, walking “into” the water..etc…

    Some of the positive things the students mentioned were “advanced”, “friendly”, “malleable”, and “addicting”. The students were amazed at the amount of user-generated content in SL and that people they met in SL were overall friendly and would give them things. They felt the ability to edit their appearance to be addicting and many spent way more time on that than they thought. Intrestingly, the students all the way back to Fall 2006 said they same things about their avatars and avatar customization became a key component in the design of a roleplay activity designed for an English course (picture below, paper here)

    Second life Avatars in World Literature

    Now for the last word…”Porn”…not much to say except to acknowledge that SL has a lot of porn and that as educators we need to prepare students to the likely possibility that at some point they will encounter porn in Second Life.

    At the end of the semester I will ask students to again describe SL in one word and I will report the words back on the o’l blog. It’ll be interesting to see if/how they change.
    joe

    Published by Joe Sanchez on 03 Sep 2008

    20 new Students + 13 waiting

    The semester has begun and i have 20 new students with an additional 13 on the wait-list for my Working in Virtual Worlds course. As their first assignment i had them all create a one-minute video introducing themselves to the class. They had to use pictures, a soundtrack, a voiceover and post the final video on youtube. The class started last Thursday so they had all weekend to work on it, the project was due yesterday (tuesday). 18 out of 19 students completed the project without a problem, one student “forgot” and another student posted the file wrong on youtube. All in all i think the assignment was a success and we had a great time watching all of the videos in class.

    In my course I emphasize the importance of the narrative and storytelling. This intro assignment is their first attempt at telling a story and using digital media to help them express their identity. When i first announced the assignment the students were intimidated by the task, but once I broke it down into the core parts, 8 pictures, a theme song, a title, and a voiceover they quickly understood that creating a short movie/slideshow is actually not that hard. As you will see, many of them had fun with it. Next week they will be using Second Life to tell a story in their virtual condos, they have to setup their SL accounts between now and our next class (Thursday) and they will have a full week to decorate the condos.

    Here are a few of my students…

    I also made a one-minute intro video for the class,

    Published by Joe Sanchez on 13 Aug 2008

    TeenGrid project SXSW Panel

    Stem Skytower aka North Lamar
    The last few weeks I’ve been working with Girlstart
    on a summer camp in Teen Second Life. My Teen avatar is pictured above, Stem Skytower is the name. The camp attendees included 19 high school juniors the first week and 23 the second week. The girls came into TSL without any experience. Following a 4 day curriculum based on my undergraduate class, the girls were able to create extraordinary exhibits about women in technology, girls in gaming, and other STEM (science technology, engineering, math) topics.

    I’ll be posting more about the projects and the data we collected in the process. My initial reading of the surveys show that this curriculum once again breaks the Second Life learning curve.
    Fat suits created by GirlStart Teens
    We submitted a panel to SXSW (South by Southwest SXSW) so if you have time I’d appreciate a vote : )

    Gaming as a Gateway Drug: Getting Girls Interested in Technology

    Wanted: Girl Gamers! It’s not just about playing, but using play to ignite a crucial spark. This session will explore how educators, parents and the community can use video games to attract girls to pursue STEM (science, technology, engineering, math).
    vote here

    Published by Joe Sanchez on 07 Mar 2008

    Report from the Trenches: Teaching Second Life

    My students begin spring break today which is great for me because while they all head south to the beaches on South Padre Island I get to stay home in student-free Austin and attend SXSW. Since we have almost hit the midpoint in the semester i thought now is a good time to share some of the work they have been doing in my Working in Virtual Worlds Class.

    Tasks completed so far in SL:

    1. Get to the island

    2. Claim a condo

    3. Use their condo to tell a story

    4. Give a tour of their condo to the class and tell their story

    5. Build a flag that waves in the wind, a bench, and send a postcard and notecard

    6. Create a group and take the class on a tour of an SL location

    7. use a 4096m plot of land and create a scene with a group.

    #7 was just completed on Tuesday, mind you, they have had weekly readings, weekly 350 word blog posts, and a test already this semester. Here are the instructions i gave for #7.

    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, Mercedes had a car to drive, Mexico had a pyramid etc.. what will be your group feature? We will spend 15 minutes in your space on Tuesday March 2 so have stuff for us to do.

    I basically handed over 1/4 sim to four student groups. They have complete access to terraform, build, script anything they want. After a weeks worth of work they created a Winter Wonderland, A Wild West Town, A forest sanctuary, and a tropical beach. I made a quick and dirty 2 minute screen capture of the class on tuesday. Take a look and see what they did.