Part of the series Giving Second Life a Second Chance
Professional development in Second Life is generally one of two types: using Second Life as a place to learn about things, and learning how to use tools in Second Life to do things (like teach). In both cases, it’s the people you meet who matter most–they will teach you, learn with you, and challenge you. Without people, Second Life is just a pretty computer graphic with some spiffy special effects.
In this post, I’m going to focus on using Second Life as a place to learn about things. In my next post, I’ll focus on learning to do things. There are a lot of links which will take you to websites, blogs, or videos with more information and a slurl to take you to the place in Second Life.
If you visit places that match your interests, you will find people from around the world who share them.
Do you teach science or math? You’ll enjoy the Exploratorium, or you can take a quick tour of science-related locations, or you can find a list of interesting places in the Science Center wiki. Do you teach English? Explore Virtual Macbeth or Literature Alive to see how teachers are using Second Life with their literature students. Visit the Story Mountain Center for Writers or the Virtual Worlds Story Project to work on your own writing. Are the fine arts your passion? Artists, musicians, and actors are all exploring ways to use Second Life for their craft. You can keep up with exhibits, performances and plays by following Second Life Art news or checking the Second Life Showcase. Do you teach Health? Check out the resources (and workshops and groups) on Health Island.
Do you teach foreign languages, world geography, or perhaps just like to travel? You can use your languages to make new friends (much nicer than simple language practice) as you experience ancient culture in Rome, explore archaeology at Chichén Itzá, learn about protecting the environment on Cocos Island, or immerse yourself in another culture in Morocco. If you search, you’ll find travel blogs like this one, highlighting sightseeing spots in virtual Japan.
And, while Second Life is not a game, there are places where you can play games, like trying to solve the puzzles in The Pot Healer Adventure or playing a role in the medieval community on Aldarian Isle.
As in real life, virtual libraries and museums are learning and information hubs. Unlike real life, they’re always open. The Alliance Virtual Library regularly hosts exhibits, community meetings, and concerts. The library catalog contains links that take you to locations within Second Life where you can interact with information. As far as museums go, You can visit the Louvre or Dresden Gallery in the morning, and still have time for a quick trip to the Sistine Chapel before lunch. Or, if art’s not your thing, you can broaden your horizons with a visit to the Smithsonian Latino Virtual Museum, the Frank Lloyd Wright Museum, the Kristallnacht Exhibit from the US Holocaust Museum, or the Star Trek Museum.
Often, it’s the people whose interests, opinions, and backgrounds are different from my own who teach me the most.
Second Life is full of people who are trying to figure out how to use virtual worlds to improve the real one. The folks on Better World Island will challenge your thinking about current world issues (like genocide, peace, and water). Visit NonProfit Commons to check out projects in Second Life, or follow their efforts on the Betterverse website. If you find a project that appeals to you, they’ll welcome you as a volunteer.
I first heard of Virtual Ability Island at a conference workshop demonstrating Max the virutal guide dog. On my first visit, I started chatting with a woman as I worked my way their orientation trail (which is, hands down, the easiest place to learn how to use your computer controls to get around in Second Life). It wasn’t until we’d talked for awhile that she chose to tell me that she was deaf–a choice she doesn’t get to make in real life. In a sense, I had a chance to meet her, not her disability. Somehow, knowing that you can’t make assumptions about an avatar makes it easier not to make assumptions about a person. (Details like appearance, gender and skin color are chosen in Second Life, not assigned.)You can read more about the difference accessibility makes and ongoing projects on the Virtual Ability website.
So, how can you find locations to explore? The blogs and magazines I’ve linked to are good resources. In addition, both b-places and Sloog allow you to search for places by descriptive tags, and include slurls to take you to those places in Second Life. Sloog is a partner of the Salamander project, a collaborative effort to index education-related Second Life content. The calendar on the Second Life Educators wiki and the SLED Blog are also both great places to find out about events in education.
If you join groups in Second Life (like Discovery Educator Network, ISTE SL Tours, or Second Life Library 2.0) you’ll receive notices about events and exhibits. If you are in Second Life and looking for interesting places to explore, Jokaydia and ISTE Headquarters have nice collections of places teachers will enjoy. The curriculum tower on International Schools Island has the largest collection of education landmarks in Second Life (that I’m aware of, anyway). They’re divided by subject area, on various floors of the tower (e.g., landmarks for real world places in Second Life are with geography materials on the 6th floor, and sports landmarks are with athletics on the 7th).