Part of the series Giving Second Life a Second Chance
Once you feel comfortable moving around and interacting with objects (getting things, finding them in your inventory and using them), it’s time to enjoy some of the professional development opportunities available in Second Life. Again, I’m not trying to list all of the groups that host speakers, conferences, or tours in Second Life–this would be a book, not a blog post. I’m only attempting to show the potential of virtual worlds for professional development.
I’ve separated these by the skill level required to participate.
Luckily, one of the easiest things to do in a virtual world is also one of the most immediately satisfying–listening to and interacting with guest speakers. All you need to be able to do is to teleport to a location, click on a seat, and make sure your speakers are on.
Iste regularly hosts guest speakers, and a series of Eduverse Talks that focus on innovations in educational technology. You can check times and dates on their wiki. Their wiki also contains presentation archives
The Consultants-E SL hosts a ”Coffee With…” series to bring leaders in language education and teacher training into a Second Life studio for a live talk followed by discussion with audience members. Their website also provides liniks to archived audio from the talks, so people outside the live time zone (or curious and not ready to enter Second Life) can listen.
Atlantis Seekers hosts Monday Night Happenin’ at its underwater auditorium in Second Life. Many of their themes focus on technology in elementary and secondary education. You can learn more about upcoming topics by joining the Atlantis Seekers Ning.
RezEd also hosts speakers, tours, and workshops for educators. In addition, they have monthly podcasts about education in virtual worlds (an easy way to learn about professional development in Second Life without having to actually go there). You can get more information by joining the RezEd Ning.
Conferences are almost as skill-easy as talks. However, you are often dealing with multiple locations and larger groups of people. Large groups of people in one location makes Second Life cranky. Experienced conference attendees often dress not to impress but to reduce the strain on computer systems and servers (the more elaborate or flashy your outfit, the more things your computer has to keep supporting). But, most of the time, attending a conference presentation is still a matter of teleporting to a location and finding a seat. Conferences in Second Life are unbelievably international, free (no flights, hotels, or meals), convenient (just need a computer, although headphones are nice), and because the speakers and attendees come from all over the world, generally run 24 hours.
Jokaydia’s Unconference is coming up in September. You can read about it on the Islands of Jokaydia website.You can get a feel for what to expect by looking at the schedule from the 2008 Unconference.
Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education is a huge collaborative effort involving a lot of groups both in and outside of Second Life. This year’s conference was in March. You can see this year’s schedule or visit the slideshare archives to see what to expect next year. You can find even more archived sessions if you search using the additional tags listed along the right side of the page.
SLanguages is hosted by The Consultants-E and focuses on language learning and teaching in virutal worlds. This year’s conference was in May. You can see what you have to look forward to next year by looking at the 2009 conference presentation schedule or archive.
Webheads in Action Online Convergence is a blended conference (it uses Web 2.0 tools like Elluminate as well as virtual worlds). The 2009 Convergence was in May. You can check out the presentation recordings on their website.
Tours generally require you to move from location to location, interact with objects (for example, click on an object to get a notecard explaining an educational site), and be able to use your camera controls to zoom in or rotate for a better view. These tour recordings of Ciudad Bonita and Jokaydia are good examples of what to expect.
New Media Consortium hosts Virtual Worlds Explorations. These tours usually include in-depth discussions combined with visits to educational projects in Second Life.
ISTE Tours happen on Sundays at 9 am SLT. You’ll notice that most Second Life events give times as “Second Life Time.” This is the same as US Pacific Time (since Linden Labs, Second Life’s owners, are on the west coast).
Discovery Educator Network hosts events that take a little more coordination than sitting and listening, but are definitely worth the extra effort–for example, this week you can dive with sharks in Second Life to go along with the Discovery Channel’s Shark Week. Where else could you swim with sharks without having to deal with wetsuits, learning to actually dive, and sharks with real teeth?