At Virtual Learning Worlds "Bartman" responds to that Wired article (A Deserted Second Life):
The problem I have with it [the Wired article], is that it deals almost COMPLETELY with Second Life as it pertains to marketing and corporations…and inevitabley why SL sucks in that space. I really wish we could get away from this argument for a while. Sure, SL has its issues (technololgy infrastructure, support, shady adult content, unstable and unpredictable economy to name a few), but it still holds HUGE potential for education and training opportunities.
And Karl Kapp talks about the inevitable hype curve in which Second Life is now in the midst. Kapp Notes: The Metaverse Hype, Decline and Realism Cycle--We've Seen It Before
However, a small group of people will continue to plod along in Second Life (or other 3D metaverses) because they see the potential. They see through the hype and understand the potential as well as the limitations of these worlds for learning.
So yesterday, after viewing the SL student video that Karl Kapp had posted in Try Before You Buy, I ventured back. I wanted to check out Renaissance Island, the Second Louvre Museum, and other areas of interest shown in the video.
The students suggest that role playing, taking on someone else's role (experience schizophrenia at UC Davis' Hallucinations site), and guided tours of historical sites are great uses of SL.
[In the comments on that post, Sean Fitzgerald left a link to a great listing of educational SL sites.]
Thankfully, my second foray into the virtual world of Second Life was much better than my first. After logging in, I immediately teleported to Renaissance Island. It's an Elizabethan village, complete with churches and sheep. I started off in the town center.
A box next to the landing point offered a free peasant dress. I tried putting on the dress, but all I could do was put the box on my head, which looked really silly. So I stuck with my normal outfit. There's a lot of things I still need to figure out with SL if I'm really going to get into it, but I think there are some things that it's just fine not to master.
I started wandering around town. A young woman with spiked heels, belly shirt and a glowing belly button approached me and we starting talking. I must admit I found the belly button thing distracting.
So it turns out she's an instructor's assistant at a community college that is starting to experiment with SL. They are thinking of potential uses, including biology and chemistry classes. "Students will be able to experiment without blowing up the lab," she told me.
We talked a bit about gender issues in SL. She says she's been hit on plenty of times and simply avoids the "sex" sites.
We parted and I started to wander. I went into a few houses. There was a lovely collection of Renaissance paintings in one, including Jan van Eyck's Arnolfini Portrait, which I've always loved. The resolution is poor -- if you were really studying these works for an art history class, you'd want something much better.
I went to a church and learned how to kneel. It was a lovely space. While kneeling in front of the altar, I started to modify my appearance. What sacrilege!
I've been trying to create an avatar who looks something like me, but it's tough. You can spend hours modifying the gravity of your breasts or the height of your chin. After 5 minutes of that, I stopped praying to the Gods of Beauty and moved on.
Another house had a note attached to the wall, which contained a great historical overview of Elizabethan towns. Overall, I think this is a wonderful use of SL with great educational opportunities. Imagine an 8th grade class exploring the village while reading Romeo & Juliet.
In spite of all the SL debate, in spite of the backlash, I intend to keep exploring.