Friday, August 17, 2007

Plodding Along in Second Life

In the spirit of plodding along, I had another positive experience in Second Life. Friday afternoon, I was fortunate enough to have been given a guided tour by non other than Abbott Bundy (aka Karl Kapp).

Karl showed me around his student sandbox. He gave me a firefighter's uniform, which I figured out how to put on after a few false starts. Showed me the site of the chemical spill where the students had done a group exercise. When we were done, I took off the uniform and tried to revert to my original appearance. I went from being a short blonde to a lanky brunette with a short stint as little red riding hood.

Then we went flying in a helicopter over the island.

We teleported over to Dell Island to take a look at the insides of a computer. All of a sudden, Abott disappeared. He returned a minute later, "I fell." Turns out he fell right off the computer. It's comforting to me that it's not only the newbies who get lost or hung up.

We discussed the fact that navigation in SL is a bit difficult.

And then my hair started walking in front of my body. I was beside myself. Quite literally. I was laughing so hard I was crying for at least two minutes.

Dell Island had some great little UI and SL tips embedded in their experience. You know when you're on the first level of a game and you get target practice to learn how to shoot, or you get to practice riding a horse? So I stopped briefly at a station to learn how to see better. I suppose Orientation Island is full of that kind of stuff. (I obviously need to do more of that basic SL 101 activity).

The computer model at Dell is pretty cool. You can walk through a fan and view a circuit board. The graphics are ok. They'll get better. Dell could do more by adding notes and descriptions along the way to make it an actual learning experience. Without that, you could be walking along in any building just about anywhere.

Karl explained some of the real basics to me as we went along -- how to do "Mouselook" for a better zoom (very useful if you're looking at a PowerPoint slide in SL -- the quality of the graphics is often quite poor); how to make your avatar laugh and do other gestures.

I got stuck in a car on Nissan island. Couldn't get out. Felt a little claustrophobic - that panicky feeling of being trapped. There's a real emotional level to Second Life. Do role plays or disaster simulations and I think you'll feel that stress level kick up a notch or two.

I still need to master the fine art of flying. I kept bumping into things and getting stuck. Karl had to save me with a teleport a couple of times.

My biggest takeaway from this experience: you really need a guide when you're first starting out in SL. At least I do.

Perhaps one day, I'll be able to give you a tour.

If you'd like to read more about my adventures in Second Life, check out my first and second visits.


Christine Martell said...

There has been so much talk about designing learning for Second Life. Like you, walking/flying/movement in general seemed hard enough for me. Does it feel like the level of emotional engagement is worth what seems to be a steep learning curve?

Do you see yourself learning enough to be able to design in the space?

Cammy Bean said...

Christine -- Good questions to which I don't know the answers!

My initial impluse is to say NO to your first question -- at least for a lot of users -- and with the technology where it's at right now at this moment in time. One would have to think very carefully about the audience and decide if the tools fit the audience and the learning need.

That said, I expect that the navigation will get easier and more useable the longer the technology is out there. So over time, the tools will be accessible to more people.

To answer your second question: Maybe.

Do you think the emotional engagment is worth it? Or could be worth it?

Anonymous said...


Your experience has me musing about some basic principles of learning. Adults don't like looking bad in front of others. You know how challenging it can be in any sort of learning setting (classroom or virtual) to create a climate in which people feel safe to try things out -- and even then, no one's all that happy with what he or she judges as "failure," rather than as "experimenting," much less learning.

One of the hurdles of Second Life (or any new, rich environment) -- one forgotten too easy by advocates -- is the way in which the means get in the way of the ends, as in all the navigation stuff, the skin stuff, the where's-my-hair stuff.

Perhaps SL feels to some people as if their actions and fumbles are visible to others, and so the learning becomes more difficult.

Cammy Bean said...

Good points, Dave. At least at this stage everyone will fumble somewhat in SL (I'd expect). My experience was made less embarrassing when I saw that it wasn't just me, but my instructor as well. So perhaps SL instructors need to keep real and humble and show their students that they too can simply fall off the grid or run into a wall.

The experience with my hair walking in front of me: I did check with Karl to see if he was seeing that as well. He wasn't. So that's the limitation of my very own computer. Nevertheless, it had me cracking up.

If this had been a Very Serious Training Experience, perhaps not so appropriate. On the other hand, a little levity and humor can make training less stressful and -- perhaps -- more effective.