The December 2007 edition of Sloan-C View hit my in box this morning. It’s not online yet, so I can’t provide a link to the current issue. But it will probably appear here someday. One of the articles was titled “Second Life: A Viable Teaching Solution, or NOT?” Like most teachers, my tendency is to roll my eyes at something like this and move on. Teachers have been using non-viable teaching tools for centuries. Most of the time, we know that the tool is not the focus – it’s the creativity of the teacher using the particular tool. How the tool is used is what makes it viable, not the tool itself.
But such is education. We always tend to focus on the wrong thing. Sloan-C is a great organization, and I really agree with most of their efforts. What got me in this article was the end analysis. They evaluated Second Life against their five pillars of quality. One Second Life con that I read there (and have read many places), was this: steep learning curve.
Is it just me, or does that seem hypocritical for educators to list a learning curve, no matter how steep, as a con? Aren’t we in the business of learning curves? Science teachers will spend days teaching students how to use lab tools before actually doing a real lab, and no one will bat an eye at the steep learning curve of those tools (I used to be an 8th grade Science teacher). But put technology in the mix, and suddenly a steep learning curve is con.
Let’s also be realistic – Second Life doesn’t have as much a steep learning curve as it has a steep flexibility curve. I picked up Second Life pretty fast. I know what you are thinking – tech geek into games picked up Second Life quickly – big shocker! Hold on a second – I don’t play games. Sorry, never played World of Warcraft. Never. Don’t own ANY games that work on my computer at home (I do own a Star Wars Lego game, but don’t have an adequate graphics card to install it). I just don’t play any games. Some of you may want to revoke my geek card for admitting that one, but so be it.
(okay, I occasionally hit the Midway Classic Games Online page. Joust, Rampage, and Tapper are so addictive!)
Second Life works great if you just take a few minutes and learn to do what it tells you to do. People have problems when they want it to work a certain way and it doesn’t. That is just what I find when I really dig in to people’s problems with Second Life. If they would just flex their expectations, they would find it quite easy to learn.
Matt is currently an Instructional Designer II at Orbis Education and a Part-Time Instructor at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. Previously he worked as a Learning Innovation Researcher with the UT Arlington LINK Research Lab. His work focuses on learning theory, Heutagogy, and learner agency. Matt holds a Ph.D. in Learning Technologies from the University of North Texas, a Master of Education in Educational Technology from UT Brownsville, and a Bachelors of Science in Education from Baylor University. His research interests include instructional design, learning pathways, sociocultural theory, heutagogy, virtual reality, and open networked learning. He has a background in instructional design and teaching at both the secondary and university levels and has been an active blogger and conference presenter. He also enjoys networking and collaborative efforts involving faculty, students, administration, and anyone involved in the education process.