Academic journal article Library Technology Reports

Pedagogical Applications of Second Life

Academic journal article Library Technology Reports

Pedagogical Applications of Second Life

Article excerpt

Since its launch in 2003, Second Life has garnered interest from educators as an instructional technology platform. Among the first to use Second Life in university courses were Anne Beamish from the University of Texas at Austin and Aaron Delwiche at Trinity University. (1) Learning activities can vary in Second Life from a quick exposure to the virtual world, such as a tour of library sites, to immersive experiences like role-playing. Students may be engaged in Second Life in a number of ways; they could be participating in a group discussion, building a model, performing as a character, creating digital stories, or participating in community engagement.

In this chapter, I will provide four examples of pedagogical applications of Second Life that I have either designed for others or used in the courses I teach. My goal is to present a landscape of pedagogical applications that will spark ideas and help others visualize how Second Life might be used in an academic, public, or school library. All of the activities share common elements: students are allowed to be creative, students are active participants, and reflection is a key component of the activity.

Digital Storytelling

Digital storytelling is storytelling that incorporates digital images, video, music, and reflective narratives in order to share life experiences and personal insights. Stories usually last between two and four minutes and are autobiographical in nature. In Second Life, digital storytelling follows the same premise, but instead of creating a video, students create an experience or a space in which others can walk through their stories.

When I introduce digital storytelling to my students, I assign them a reading about Joseph Campbell's monomyth. (2) In the monomyth, Campbell explains that myths share a fundamental structure throughout different cultures of the world. In describing the Monomyth, Campbell explains a number of stages or steps along a Hero's Journey. For the digital storytelling project, I ask my students to use tools in Second Life to tell a story about a time when they were a hero and to use the Hero's Journey as their framework. My students tell a variety of stories, ranging from winning a sports championship to earning their admission to the University of Texas at Austin.

The digital storytelling exercise consists of three parts: composing a story, creating an experience, and telling the story to a group of people. To set up the digital storytelling exercise, I provide each student with a condo that measures 20 meters by 20 meters, and I stack the condos into buildings. Each building has four floors, allowing my class of twenty students to fit into five buildings. Using the buildings as a focal point, I then create an urban landscape that I use as my "classroom" for the first few weeks of the course. I give my students one week to create their digital stories in Second Life, and we use the second week to tell the stories. Figure 7 is an example of a student sharing their digital story with their classmates.

Digital storytelling serves as a unique way for students to learn about their classmates and as a first step towards building a community of learners. Students not only create a story, they also narrate the stories and experience the stories of their classmates.

I use the digital storytelling project to provide an opportunity or a purpose that encourages students to learn how to build in Second Life. The digital storytelling activity encourages students to build objects such as doors, picture frames, and furniture that they use to create a setting for their stories. One student commented:

   Decorating my room in Second Life had a
   lot of benefits with it. I learned a lot more
   about the software and how to do certain
   things. I learned how to upload pictures
   onto my wall, move objects around, stretch
   objects, and many other useful skills. … 
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