Game Day Published 2007-01-09 under

I am a big fan of independent films and I will be posting from the Sundance Film Festival later this month. I noticed today on the Sundance Channels' site a link called called "Second Life Blog". What does the Sundance Channel have to do with a virtual reality "game"? Apparently, Sundance is creating an island in Second Life and as its first event will be screening the movie "Four Eyed Monsters" complete with a Q&A with the filmmakers. This is no game, this is an opportunity for us to "travel" to an exclusive event and interact with the folks that made the film.

I am not a gamer nor do I spend time in places like Second Life. But I am excited at the possibilities these environments offer educators. A new book by David Williamson Shaffer has come out titled "How Computer Games Help Children Learn" along with a companion website: Epistemic Games. In an Chicago Tribune article, David is quoted:

Most of the games designed for educational purposes help kids get better at the same task that schools have been addressing for a long time. They don't address how to actually do things in the real world

With the exception of "Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing" (another story altogether), I have never had much patience for those educational games that are little more than drill and practice with graphics. But the games described by David transport the student to a new environment where they are free to take risks, be creative, make mistakes, and learn. This is what innovation is all about.

In a conversation with a friend that I just met (again, a story for another time), we were discussing the difference between incremental changes and breakthrough innovations in education. Gaming certainly offers the possibility of the latter.

Now, can someone tell me how to get a Second Life so I can watch the movie.


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Vicki A. Davis said...

I agree that there is great potential in second life. I think this largely because of its ability to allow students to interact and leave behind preconceived notions of one another. Perhaps when students get past the stereotypical roles we will see some very exciting collaborative things happen as students group around common interests and passions rather than around common looks or socioeconomic backgrounds. The potential is exciting!

rob banning said...

I have definitely seen how students can have two distinct personalities: one online and one in real life. The online version is often more extraverted and where students are more willing to take intellectual risks.

What is your experience in second life? I read an article (can’t find it now) about the Sundance premiere and it alluded to the fact that there were many in the SL audience who were so busy interacting during the movie that the author doubted that they really saw it. Perhaps this is a comment on the film, the venue, or just the ability of Second Lifers to multitask.

Does SL have a whole different set of social norms, ones that might get in the way of a learning environment? Your point about groups forming around a passion is very compelling and goes to the heart of much of my educational philosophy – that we as teachers must encourage students to be passionate. For many, online personas might allow them to be passionate, for in the physical world being passionate about something intellectual is not cool.

BTW – I am enjoying your blog, Cool Cat Teacher and am looking forward to listening to WOW2.


Durff said...

It does have great potential. But as a teacher, I cannot recommend it because I cannot preview it. This is because of necessary safety features, which I do agree with. There must be 3D games we can preview?

rob banning said...


Places like mySpace have raised our awareness of online predators and I understand the reluctance of many to recommended or require students to use such sites. But part of our jobs is to educate students, parents, and other teachers about how to safely use tools that can enhance learning.

I am not sure what you mean by "preview", but for me, I am not as concerned about previewing as much as monitoring. In blogs and wikis, I think teachers should review posted content and comments but not necessarily preview it. The joy of seeing your words appear in real time is extraordinary and I would not want to deny students.

It is important that teachers monitor content to ensure that it is appropriate. And to this end, I too am a bit concerned with Second Life. There does not appear to be a way for me to keep track of what my students are doing or with whom they are talking.

Second Life does offer "islands" where only invited members are allowed to visit. This feature costs money but the concept sounds inviting. I guess I would be OK with letting my student loose on an protected island.

Have you tried Second Life (I have only been on a couple of times)?