Second Life - I’m hooked
By Murray Bourne, 13 Nov 2006
When my colleague first talked about Second Life recently, I thought he had undergone some religious epiphany and I nodded understandingly, hoping he would recover okay.
I had a chance over the weekend to install and play with Second Life, and I was impressed. In fact, it is the 3D immersive multi-player concept that I have been hoping someone would develop for some time.
[I played with the similarly configured ActiveWorlds some time back, but I did not have such a good user experience. It was unstable and clunky and I felt it needed a lot of work. Maybe it has improved lately - I should go back and have another go.]
When you first "land" in the Second Life environment, you can move (your avatar) around and discover how to change your appearance and do things, like create objects, move objects around and fly. There are other "newbies" walking around and it's fun to "meet" them and figure out how to do things together.
It is a really interesting environment that seems to have a bit of everything - a working economy (based on virtual and real dollars) of around (real US) $1 million a day with a currency exchange, a thriving virtual real estate market, tens of thousands of visitors logged on at any one time, a "safe" area for teenagers and "mature" areas (for whatever), gambling areas (which were very popular) and even educational areas.
Technically, I found it worked well, with very few hiccups. Each area in Second Life uses its own server with a limited number of users, so if one part gets too busy, the whole thing doesn't come crashing down.
Second Life in Education
Second Life allows educators to create simulated worlds and then let their students loose in there, learning as they interact and solve problems. There is a Second Life educators mailing list.
Second Life has many of the necessary elements that are missing in many e-learning environments. It is engaging, it is fun, it has elements of mystery and gaming, it has social interaction and it is strongly visual.
Using Second Life for Mathematics
I'm thinking that an interesting use of Second Life for mathematics could be to get students to create various objects that need to behave in certain ways (fall due to gravity, collide, move such that velocity and acceleration can be observed in real time, etc). The process of creating the objects and getting them to behave appropriately could be very stimulating and have good learning outcomes.
Students could also develop small activities on different mathematical concepts, which other students visit, solve, respond to and add to. I'm looking forward to trying it out.
Check out the movies made in Second Life. I especially liked Suzanne's Guitar.
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