Virtual Worlds on a Smart Board

Like the other Edugeek members, I recently joined the Classroom 2.0 social networking site. I’ve only been a member for about a week, and I’ve already connected with others interested in classroom 2.0 technology and applications. I’m learning very cool things from other members and their projects.

One of those projects is called Edusim, an educational simulation developed in the open-source 3-D platform, Croquet. The developers went beyond just creating an educational space within the virtual environment; they hooked it up to an interactive Smart Board. The following video from the Edusim website shows young students engaged in learning activities while interacting with the simulation.

According to the Edusim creators, the Smart Board could be used with any virtual world, including Second Life. It wouldn’t have to be for children, either: chemistry students could conduct experiments in a virtual lab, for example. Such a simulation could be done in Second Life without the Smart Board, of course — but I imagine that reaching out with your hand to manipulate the environment is a different experience than simply pointing and clicking with a mouse. The children in the video certainly seem engaged.

Sloog HUD Improves Second Life Exploration

Although I am a big fan of Second Life, I will readily admit that some of the features aren’t very usable yet. The Search feature is almost useless, and since Landmarks are both private and inaccessible outside Second Life, it’s hard to share interesting places you’ve found with your friends.

Frustrated by the unwieldy Search and Landmark tools, a group of Second Life users created a bookmarking system called Sloog. Sloog allows users to bookmark locations and avatars using a free in-world Heads-up Display (HUD), identify them using custom tags, and save them to an online profile. Each Sloog contains the Second Life URL (SLURL) to the location and the list of descriptive tags added by the user.

Although there is a setting to make bookmarks private, the best feature of Sloog is the ability to share and explore public bookmarks (or “Sloogs”). The Sloog tagging system, as Katrina pointed out, is very similar to the one used by, and is much easier to use than the in-world Second Life search tool. Plus, you can access your bookmarked locations from your online profile without having to log into SL.

I would also like to point out that in the list of popular tags on Sloog‘s website, “Education” is one of the largest! Clicking on the tag will take you to a list of all locations in Second Life that have been tagged as educational — a great way to find and share new places or promote your own educational space.

The University of New Orleans Enters Second Life

The University of New Orleans recently joined the ranks of higher education institutions that have established virtual campuses in Second Life. Unlike most participating universities, which primarily use their Second Life islands to recruit new students, promote their school, and experiment with virtual worlds, UNO’s purpose is more essential: to maintain classes in the event of another Hurricane Katrina-like disaster. If students, faculty, and administrators are forced to evacuate during a storm, they can reconnect with each other through Second Life.

Although the university uses Blackboard to manage its online courses, UNO administrators believe that the “presence” created by avatars in a 3D space raises the level of online class interaction. The university will offer two courses at its virtual campus starting in the fall.

Currently, the New Orleans Island campus is closed to the public.