shortly after publishing my latest drax files world makers episode about istanbul university and how this particular institution uses second life to teach local and remote students, a debate ensued in the youtube comment section that i find quite important, however it is being conducted in a bit of a black-and-white/broad-brush type manner.
check out the video below and read some of the comments if you will:
having documented the efforts of individual educators, large educational institutions and smaller globally distributed non-profits who experiment with virtual worlds in various ways, i was well aware of the controversy surrounding the approach of replicating "reality" aka the classroom in sl as a center point of online instruction.
below: a example of a trans-media project i was involved with that does in fact replicate a lot of stuff: in this case the gruesome past of lynching of african-americans in the in the jim crow south...
there are many passionate voices who say replicating a classroom and/or a campus in second life is a bad bad idea because a) it does not take advantage of the imaginative powers of a world where everything is possible and b) [which is kind of the result of a)], students will be even less engaged than in the physical classroom because they already reject those limitations there & in second life they find themselves basically having a powerful space dominated [neutered?] by a institution/teacher/someone who does not get it.
and then among those voices there are even educators who say the entire experiment of using virtual worlds in the classroom has failed precisely because of that group of colleagues who "lacked the imagination"/understanding of sl and simply saw it as a digital mirror.
and for the above crowd my video seems to be proof that even the most passionate defenders of sl [evangelists like me] are still not getting it, dabbling on the surface and perpetuating the misperception that sl is nothing more than a 3d chatroom.
what can i - the naughty boy set out to destroy sl in edu by regurgitating clichés - say, that clarifies my stance without sounding defensive?
well first of all, i am really saddened that a lot of people seem to perceive the entire video and the angle i chose to be promoting the "replication of reality model".
i thought it was pretty clear, that professors tuncer can and irfan simsek - who are profiled in the video - do not stop at the use of the replicated classroom [which as they clearly state serves primarily as a successful on-boarding mechanism because of its familiarity to skeptical students] but expand the educational possibilities by making proof of concept games for different grades, presenting solid informational spaces for foreign students and showing students how to make machinima, which enables them to use the entire world as their imaginative sandbox/playground, a gigantic hollywood studio if you will - at their fingertips.
nothing in my mind could be more creative than letting future english teachers imagine how to visualize specific grammatical problems in a storytelling context or let folks get their feet wet with linden scripting language and gain confidence in coding their own experiences.
below a user-created beauty, experienced with the oculus rift:
anyways: this short blog post is certainly not intended to serve as a statement in defense of my decisions as a documentarian on this or previous videos. i really just want these communities to have a more constructive dialogue about the issues as we enter the neo vr era.
these approaches have to be rethought and renegotiated have to be those spaces! nobody who is enthusiastic about virtual reality in the classroom is served by the cynicism and sometimes even vitriol expressed in some of the comments [and by that i am not referring to james o'reilly, that well known troll, who spammed the channel with a bunch of comments as well].
i think many of the educators critical of the "realism" approach to vws are much better served in looking at their own contributions to the space critically: have they really [as some claim] used sl in imaginative ways? have they really pushed the envelope?
below: pushing the second life envelope in artistic and interactive ways = madpea [since 2008]
because frankly: in 10 years i have NOT seen much that is utilizing all the magnificent possibilities linden lab has offered residents: features like the advanced lighting system, experience keys, support of complex mesh models, the brand-new bento skeleton for avatars and the list goes on and on and on. below = project bento is happening:
perhaps the folks complaining should ask themselves that the lack of acceptance for second life aided instruction among their student body, the lack of success among administrators and colleagues has to do with the fact that they are using a really outdated visual approach.
from the outside it kind of looks like that are somehow locked in the 2006/2007 era of sl?
maybe - as a starting point - they get more student engagement if they would update their own avatar and show the game-savvy kids that second life can be super cool?
how about attending immersive roleplaying events but only after getting a bit of an avatar make over?
i am sorry, but educators who use the default duck walk and do not know how to enable dynamic shadows in the viewer, who have a region in sl that has no materials enabled should not be surprised that their young and spoiled [and i mean this in the best sense of the word] clientele roll their eyes at the digital offerings.
they should also not be surprised that the neo vr crowd dismisses second life as a playground for amateurs who do not know where the digital train is headed...
it is not the replicated classroom that symbolizes being stuck in the past perhaps, it may just be the shabby default hair/clothes from 2006. or perhaps the arrogant dismissal of fashionista type endeavors in sl as "escapist"?