16 June 2010

virtuality, me and SDSU part 1

I haven't taken the time to articulate formally my thoughts on what I've been doing with virtual worlds at SDSU.  I need to publish. For now though, I'll blog a bit about it.

My thinking about virtual worlds has developed in the context of the initiatives and projects I've worked on since 2005. I got into my first 3Dish avatar in Second Life in 2005. After stumbling around for a few months, I returned again 2007 with the pICTsl Farm. We didn't spend a lot of intellectual and material resources getting teaching and learning happening, like most institutions were doing. Rather, I wanted to understand what these kinds of environments could mean for learning, and teaching in higher education. I had already been leading a program for faculty to successfully use technology in courses and I'm an instructional designer, and both of these lenses framed my thinking pragmatically and theoretically.

So we experimented with and explored virtual worlds as institutionally-situated learning and teaching spaces. In Second Life we also surveyed survey-assessment instruments practitioners used. With spending time in Qwak, (now Teleplace), Wonderland, IMVU and Activeworlds and with their communities, Second Life's popularity became understandable. In comparison, the technology was stable enough; the context it provided was serious enough, but still sexy and fun. It was affordable and above all full of people building a knowledge base. It was in my mind though, one destination for education in virtuality; it wasn't destiny. For instance,  if I recommended to SDSU a 3D platform, then or now, I'd offer up Teleplace.  It has a lot of features supporting the kinds of teaching and learning that happen most often here.

I began presenting on our work, going to conferences and reading a broad range of literature on what I came to call "virtuality." It was an indefinite term for what I still believe is an indefinable constellation of possibilities. In one early presentation on learning in virtuality, I framed the talk with platformscontexts and learning goals, familiar conceptual on-ramps for practitioners. I talked about social software, CMSs, Blackboard, simulation vendors, categories of web-based learning, characteristics of platforms and instructors. I was successful in decentering Second Life (it was 2008) and providing participants a glimpse at the constellation of possibilities.

In this early initiative I was already setting myself and SDSU apart from the Second Life groupthink. I stayed involved, contributing now and then to listservs and blogs, but mostly took everything in. My contributions to Second Life conversations consisted mostly of critiques and unasked/able-questions. If you've enthusiastically spent 70 hours of your own time and 100 dollars of your own money to teach say an English class in Second Life, my questions were almost mean.

In summer 2007, shortly after we launched the pICTsl Farm, I created alt and began having a regular ol' Second Life. Bored with the hype, unimpressed with "SL education"and frustrated with learning the way I had been experiencing it in symposia workshops, I needed a new pair of glasses. Off I went.