Nora Ashmawi's Blog

Archive for October 2009

E-Learning Through Second Life

Second Life logo

Second Life logo

The MTV/gaming generation labels todays education “ineffective, irrelevant and unproductive.” So what can be done to educate these youngsters short attention spans and a need for their electronic life-support?  Dr. Tony Karrer has the answer, Second Life.

Second Life is a 3D online virtual world where learner become immersed into their topics of study. This system does not take away from the social interaction and development of students either. Learners are able to interact with different avatars and communicate with others, on orientation island of course.

This unique world allows learners to visit different periods of history and they become even more immersed in the environment because they are momentarily a part of it. Learners are able to have first hand interaction with places otherwise inaccessible , such as the inside of a Van Gogh painting, a Dell computer, or the Sistine Chapel! Language barriers are even shattered as learners from all over the world can interact using language translators on Second Life. In addition, time and space barriers are broken as users from all over the world can attend virtual lectures together at the same time!

Voice support is another tool, which allows users to extend their voices and speak in their virtual reality. This allows Second Life users to feel as though they are fully and wholly submerged into this virtual world, mind, body and soul.

Second Life E-learning encompasses many educational modules that stretch from history to geography, to science.  Within the science module, for example, learners will be able to view enlarged cells and even enter them. If schools wanted to teach students about cells they would use microscopes, and some schools even lack the necessary technology, Second Life removes this technological divide!

Karrer is therefore, in my opinion, a great thinker who has created a propitious pedagogy that is Second Life.

Second Life May Point to the Future, That’s Nothing to Call ‘Overhyped

Second Life is thought to have a great future, it may even become a huge million/billion dollar company sooner than we think, as David Kirkpatrick, the senior editor of Fortune magazine estimates.

Second Life is not a game, it is a second world, a newer form of social life that exceeds other social networks such as MySpace in the sense that it gives its users even more freedom more and greater creations that any other social network has done. It could be described as an empty platform on which users are free to build on.

One other advantage of Second Life is that it allows users to see and interact with users who are in a nearby location, virtually of course. It is amazing because a person (their avatar actually), who is a few steps away, may actually be a user who is on another continent!

Second Life still needs some time and work because right now the 1.3 million users who have managed to join it are either technical geniuses or those with a specific powerful computer system.

As Kirkpatrick optimistically estimates, give Second Life some time and it will soon be a place where anyone who’s anyone will be.

The Reinvention of The Future of Interactive Fiction

The idea of allowing readers to become a co-creator of the fictional piece that they read is coming back!

My earliest memory of an interactive fiction is a book I owned from the Goosebumps series. That book allowed me to read a chapter that ended with a cliff-hanger and then I was able to choose the next chapter to read according to what I wanted to see happen next in the plot… Scary stuff!

The Guardian article dicusses how the interactive fiction is re-emerging in three different ways:

1. Original interactive fictional books are being re-packaged and sold, whereupon readers are reminded of the classical interactive books like Fighting Fantasy by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone.

2. Interactive books are being created but with themes different from the typical fantasy theme. Newer themes are in a self-help style such as how to deal with relationships.

3. The idea of a wovel (web-novel) is created in which an author writes a  story online and depending on the votes he/she receives for the popularity or admiration for a chapter, that chapter will be the chosen as a part of the novel!

In all cases readers have a greater say in how they want the plot of a book to advance, some love the idea, others hate it. Should a reader have some say in what he/she wants to read? Does this take away from the excitement of not knowing what will happen next? Or should writers stick to typical fiction formats since they supposedly know best?

Yes Men to the Rescue!

According to their official website, the Yes Men is as follows:

“Impersonating big-time criminals in order to publicly humiliate them. Targets are leaders and big corporations who put profits ahead of everything else.”

The Yes Men imitate corrupt large corporate leaders but instead of speaking about positively about their positions and advocating their companies as any spokesperson would be excepted to do, the Yes Men openly and quite wittily unmask major problems and faults of companies. Sometimes they do so to aid humanity and other times to just unveil the truth.

One example of a Yes Man can be seen here. It consists of a Yes Man impersonating the Dow company spokesperson and apologising for the Bhopal, India toxic spill that occurred 3 years earlier. Many allusions to mistakes are made, portraying a corrupt corporate ethics that would otherwise remain unacknowledged and even denied!

Here is an image of a Yes Men invention which is a large self-containing balloon that one rests in, it is called the SurvivaBall!

Halliburton (a Yes Man) and his SurvivaBall

Halliburton (a Yes Man) and his SurvivaBall

The Yes Men claim that it will protect CEO’s and managers of large corporations from climate change and other effects of global warming. Quite a hilarious and ingenious way to mock unscrupulous and deceitful corporate leaders!

Views of the Yes Men vary, some say the movement is groundbreaking and is useful to informing society; others say that the Yes Men are not actually making an effective change to the problems that occur… Whether the Yes Men are helpful or not- you decide.

Yes Men

Yes Men

What Do These Articles Have in Common?

Well, many occurring themes include the latest uses of technology. Each article and website discusses the ways that technology and the internet can be more effectively used, whether it is to: connect users worldwide, enhance learning, spread the word of truth, or interact with authors to create a wovel!

An obvious similarity is that E-Learning Through Second Life and Second Life May Point to the Future, That’s Nothing to Call ‘Overhyped’ are associated to Second Life. Both the website and article commend Second Life and how it opens doors to new possibilities.

Although the Yes Men website also acts as a connector between people, it does so in a somewhat more political way. Instead of focusing on creating an online community, it aims to improve society, and happens to simultaneously connect people through similar interests.

My favorite website was the Second Life site that explained the function of Second Life through tutorial-like videos; this almost mimics the setting and experience of Second Life and makes it easier to imagine what it would be like to become a part of the Second Life community.



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  • norashmawi: Hey Yasmin! I am on both! On Twitter I'm @norashm and on LinkendIn.. I'm just there too! Hope you're doing well!!
  • Yasmin Helal: Where are you old friend? Can't find you on Twitter or LinkedIn!!
  • nazgolhrh: Good job on your blog... great word choice and creative as always.