TCC09: Digital Learning Environments: Context Sensitive and Imaginative Classes in Second Life

Liveblogged notes from the TCC online conference. My notes in italics

Presenter(s): Cynthia Calongne, Colorado Technical University

Summary: “Ready to teach with Second Life, but not sure how to begin? Using it already, but need to migrate your course content for virtual world delivery? Come prepared to have fun as we explore how to design learning activities for use in Second Life. Tips on how to streamline your virtual world classes and help your students learn how to use Second Life are featured in this session.”

I wish I could say we’re really ready to teach in Second Life, but I think we’re still a few years away from using any virtual worlds. Still, it’s fun to see what Cynthia is doing.

Getting Started

Class Environment

  • Need to build a meeting space or rent
  • Give students SL skills

Her “classroom” is a castle but most learning happens in the area outside where they can be messy

Need to do little games like passing a ball back and forth to teach basic skills, like the games to teach mouse skills from the 90s

Uses reflection questions to get students to think about their learning and identity

Identity and looks matter so people can be comfortable in the environment

Different SL environments are better for different activities. Example: A gazebo with invisible walls is OK for discussion but not content creation. Free-floating seating is better for both.

Speech gestures: more natural to have movement while using audio for speech

Field Trips

  • Libraries–teen grid library is very different from main grid
  • NMC site lets you share your ideas. Lots of educator freebies. Sometime I should really get back into SL and check out the NMC site–they clearly have a lot of great stuff
  • When she mentors on the teen grid, she gives them objects that have to be altered so they learn to customize
  • You don’t have to build everything yourself–use the resources that exist already and have been built by others
  • SciLands–lots of science organizations have spaces to check out. e.g. tour the space shuttle
  • Data visualization sites

She doesn’t teleport her students to the sites–she creates notecards with links to locations and posts them for students. Also encourages them to check out other schools etc. so not so insulated


  • Collaboration: 1st day
    • Rez a sphere, set it to physical, pass a ball
  • Roleplay
    • In case study or story, assign roles & identities

How do you get people through the learning curve? Start with camera and movement controls. In every course, 30 mins on course content, 20 mins SL skills, 10 mins project. Start building objects by the second session. 11-week courses with 1 weekly meeting.

Students need ownership of the things they do

Human barometer activity–students take a stand by moving to different signs. Visually shows differences in people’s opinions.

When middle school students role play Of Mice and Men, their opinions change over the course of the trial

Use relaxed meeting spaces–she has a rug and cushions to move anywhere

Other project examples

  • Autism project–doctoral research for autism
  • Military training
  • Newspapers for myopic users
  • Design a fridge for wheelchair users
  • Electronic voting machine

Students were often able to just reuse pieces from other places rather than having to script themselves. For our courses we’d really have to use existing stuff. I could see more with field trips than necessarily student-created content.

You don’t have to create tutorials for everything–you can use tutorials created by others. Texture tutorials etc. are available elsewhere.

You can have a static island, but she does more of a holodeck: her environment is more ephemeral. She mixes up a lot of the environment.

Creativity & Group Work

  • Conferences
  • Student-driven design
  • Economy–give students parcels or have them create businesses
  • Group Work

Seasonal fun stuff: She says any educators can have it if you want it. Just IM her (Lyr Lobo) and ask for I think Holiday Fun 2008

How do you build community?

  • Groups
  • Friend list
  • Give a card
  • You have cultural decisions to make about how you build community
  • She does one-on-one, especially with doctoral students where she supports their research

Be flexible and humble. Stuff will go wrong, your hair will end up around your waist, you’ll end up with a box on your head. Don’t let it bother you.

She has two islands

  • Acheron LV426: public island
  • And we distracted her with questions and she never got back to the second island…

Cynthia’s blog:

There are 8 slides worth of links in the presentation–get it from the slides

Everything you create you own and can sell. More value for students b/c they get to keep what they create.

Q: What is hardest?
A: At first, movement. Once they learn to fly they are much happier.