The SLENZ update – No 9, September 24, 2008

Is SL for education?

There is an often fiery debate going on  the US-based HASTAC  Scholars Forum  ( which has spread to the Second Life Education (SLED) list. It’s on whether Second Life  is providing “fabulous opportunities or over-hyped fabulation”  for education.

It has resulted from a sometimes tongue-in-cheek video put up by Ana Boa-Ventura, a graduate student, Radio-TV-Film, at the  University of Texas, at Austin. In it she suggests that Metaverses might through their sense of ‘presence’ through embodiment,  bring the ‘humane’ back to scientific collaboration.

She notes that although scientific visualization is core to the cyber-infrastructure, it often attains a level of abstraction that hinders rather than encourages those modes of communication most germane to humans – vision, gesture, voice.

“Could Metaverses, by adding embodiment and hence these more natural modes of communication, be the missing link that invites humanists, social scientists and artists to participate and explore the vast amount of computing resources now available in the Grid?” she asks.

Speaking of Second Life in Higher Education environments, she says, there have been few technologies in recent years that have caused such a split in the academic world between advocates and dissidents as Metaverses, particularly Second Life, have.

She then lists the criticism of Metaverses – disputed by some  – as being: Instability and lack of interoperability with other Internet applications; proprietary technology; the uncertain future of user-generated content; a parallel economy – of superficial values; An idealized World; The resistance of funding agencies; The scholarly generational gap in research and teaching in SL;  and the problem of metrics in SL.

On the propoents side, she says, is: Critical mass which provided a stimulus to the development of standards for Metaverses;  corporate R&D investment; innovation and a vast knowledge base. There also was interoperability with other Internet applications; innovative End-User License Agreement; non-profits’ fundraising; and Metaverses being used as a new medium of artistic expression.

Social gaming?

Amanda Lenhart, Joseph Kahne, Ellen Middaugh, Alexandra Rankin Macgill, Chris Evans, and Jessica Vitak have come up with some interesting and perhaps surprising data from the first US national survey of Teens, Video Games and Civics.

With virtually all American teens playing computer, console, or cell phone games, they found that teens’ gaming experiences are diverse, rich and varied and, perhaps surprisingly for some of the older generation, include significant social interaction and civic engagement.

The survey was conducted by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, an initiative of the Pew Research Center and was supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The primary findings in the survey of 1,102 youth ages 12-17 include:

Game playing is universal, with almost all teens playing games and at least half playing games on a given day. Game playing experiences are diverse, with the most popular games falling into the racing, puzzle, sports, action and adventure categories.

Game playing also is social, with most teens playing games with others at least some of the time and incorporating many aspects of civic and political life.

Another major finding is that game playing sometimes involves exposure to mature content, with almost a third of teens playing games that are listed as appropriate only for people older than they are. Read the  full report at:

Global Kids Curriculum

Jeremy Kemp (SL: Jeremy Kabumpo),  the Assistant Director, SL Campus,SJSU School of Library & Information Science, describes the Global Kids Second Life Curriculum ( launched at Tampa and in Los Angeles a couple of weeks ago , as stunning as do a large number of other educators.

He says  he has already used it “with my grad students to great effect”.

Although 430+ pages and covering ALL the basic skills in a handy format he says, however, he says it needs  a teacher’s edition with Web 2.0 and 3D supplements, which he has created as a set of Extensions.

( He notes Global Kids is NOT affiliated with this effort and his materials are also licensed CC:BY-NC-SA.)

A PDF version of the teachers’ guide with color cover and all nine levels bookmarked and numbered for easy reference is available from (10Mb). It also will available in a print .

Quick tip

Direct access to SL sims  for newly registered avatars  will help educators  wanting to do orientations on their own sims. Read about how to do it at: )


Saturday, October 27 (AEST): Jokaydia Unconference. Jo Kay aka jokay Wollongong, facilitator of the Islands of jokaydia in Second Life, tells us the draft program is available online @ For further info visit the jokaydia Wiki @ and the jokaydia Blog @  It’s also on twitter via @jokay.

Wednesday, October 8,  12 noon to 2 pm (New Zealand time): Kiwi Educators’ Group session on terraforming. Limited to 10 participants with possiblity of further session based on demand. Participants are expected to be familiar with the basics of Second Life in terms of navigating the terrain, using the camera, teleporting and being able to communicate effectively in the environment using the main chat channel, group chat channels and Instant Messaging. For further information and booking IM Isa Goodman in world.


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