Fang Li took the potcert bama cohort on a tour of Second Life last Wednesday afternoon (here’s his interesting blog post about SL). I enjoyed the tour, and it made me really think about SL and its viability (for me at least) as an instructional option.
On one hand, I wondered whether from an instructional perspective at least, it’s kind of window dressing for something I could accomplish by video or chat through an LMS. I also wondered whether it’s just one more thing students would have to learn to do to be successful in an online course.
On the other hand, it seemed to me in some ways a much more natural virtual setting (hmmm) than an LMS. At least students don’t have to click one place for content, click back, click another place for discussion, click back, click another place to post an assignment, click back, and so forth.
What I did find particularly intriguing was the idea of creating myself, much more intentionally, as an instructor, than I typically do. I know I choose a persona for any class I teach, but if I were to use second life, I would really in fact have to choose a persona, an avatar. I’d pick what I am to look like, from character type, to face shape, to hair color, to eye color, and so forth, all of which provides a signal to who I am as a teacher. Students do the same, right?
So we put on our teacher faces and we put on our student faces and we get together in this virtual world to talk things over, to learn things. Do the personas that we choose influence teaching and learning?
It seems like they might. It seems like they might suggest things about the nature of the teacher-student relationship, the roles that participants take up, the approachability of the participants, the level of distraction caused by the avatars, and so forth.
To put the question to the extreme, what does it mean when a bunny shows up for a class taught by a vampire? Or vice versa, a vampire shows up to be taught by a bunny?