Saturday, July 04, 2009

On the Mall on the 4th of July!

Okay, I'm gonna do it.Last night I was pretty sure I was gonna be a party pooper, but today, after catching up on all kinds of things all morning at the hotel, I'm downtown at Gordon Biersch with a cold brew in front of me and my laptop aperch a singularly central bar table. People on the wait list just didn't see the table, I guess, or would rather sit at a traditional table or booth. I'm a happy camper.

I'm right across the street from the Spy Museum, which I fondly recall from a trip long ago, and I'm blogging whilst awaiting my jackcheeseburger with a spinach side. This beer is very tasty. and the burger just arrived. I always order those medium, so if it comes undercooked it's at least the mid-rare I prefer instead of mooing at me. This one's a perfect mid-rare, and the sauteed spinach is lovely. Took a pass on the garlic fries, with manful self-control.

Sorry Bernajean, if you're reading this. At the edubloggers' dinner at Charlie Chiengs the other night you did a very nice rant about ppl blogging (twittering?) what they're eating. I submit this only for local color, not to mention in order to recommend this place to anyone and everyone. My wi-fi is excellent, too, hence this post.

I had a nice talk with my dear friend Kevin Jarret over Skype earlier today. Get over and read his absolutely eloquent summation of his experiences at NECC09! Yay. Now I don't have to write one!

We were talking about a couple of things related to our main work, as we're both K-4 Technology Coordinators and both under some increasing fire for developing highly public profiles as educator-advocates for virtual environments. More pertinent to this post, however, we chatted about how one thing that struck me during NECC09 this past week was how Second Life needs a SIG (Special Interest Group) of its own, separate from the Gaming and Simulations SIG. That excellent group is not where we should be. Why? It's rather complicated, so bear with me. Let's bullet point this thing, since I don't want to reorder them after I spill them out. Please pay attention: I'm quizzing you at the end!
  • Second Life is not a "game." You can find any number of statements, manifestos, and flat-out angry diatribes on this topic with your Google search engine and a few careful search terms. Perhaps the most eloquent is the "Classification" segment of the Second LIfe entry at Wikipedia. To whit:

Classification

During a 2001 meeting with investors, Rosedale noticed that the participants were particularly responsive to the collaborative, creative potential of Second Life. As a result, the initial objective driven, gaming focus of Second Life was shifted to a more user created, community driven experience.[11][12]

Second Life's status as a virtual world, a computer game, or a talker, is frequently debated. Unlike a traditional computer game, Second Life does not have a designated objective, nor traditional game play mechanics or rules. As it does not have any stipulated goals it is irrelevant to talk about winning or losing in relation to Second Life. Likewise, unlike a traditional talker, Second Life contains an extensive world that can be explored and interacted with, and it can be used purely as a creative toolset if the user so chooses. However, the vast majority of users use Second Life primarily as an entertainment medium,[citation needed] and for most of them the ability to interact with other users is critical to that.[citation needed]

  • Second Life may be a "simulation," but--at least as it is used by educators--it is much more a social networking platform that is mounted on a platform that is a simulated environment than it is a "simulation."
  • Second Life educators, while they may be individually interested in gaming, are more educators than gamers. Many come into SL simply to enjoy the company of others, to benefit from the amazing sense of place that SL can provide for networking, teaching, and learning.
  • The nearly 5000 members of ISTE Second Life could mostly care less about the content promoted by the membership of SIGGS, aside from Second Life. I'm not saying that content is not valuable, and educationally valid, and shared with good intentions, but the underpinnings of most of the content I saw at the wonderful SIGGS Playground are not relevant to many of the members of what I propose to be SIGSL, SIG Second Life. Shoot, there should probably be a SIGVE (one for all other Virtual Environment platforms as well. But even that's getting too broad for many of our ISTE SL members, and I truly think we need to populate the discussion with resources for SIGSL without broadening its scope.
  • Second Life is free. Most of the SIGGS content, other than SL, is not. That's a huge difference that can't be overstated. While there are commercial aspects to networking, teaching, and learning in SL, an educator need not spend dollar one to benefit from it on a daily basis, if she or he so chooses.
  • Back when the SIGGS was first proposed, I had put in a concurrent proposal in for a SIGVE. For a number of reasons, including my own overcommitments in various venues and on various projects, I deferred to ISTE's suggestion that we merge, and deferred leadership to the capable Greg Jones, since the broader topic suggested that his level of expertise is clearly more suited to leading that SIG. As far as I can see, none of the leadership of SIGGS has much interest in SL, aside from using it as a platform to promote their own interests. That's a good thing, and I applaud it, but I maintain that the Second Life "tribe" needs more representation in ISTE than the SIGGS can provide it. It needs its own SIG, ya'll.
Okay, my burger's done and my one beer's empty. I'm going to wrap this up and go stand in what dear pal Cathy Walker texts me is an increasingly long line at Mall security. I sincerely hope that I've not offended anyone: That's not my intention. What is my intention is to start a dialog about creating a SIGSL. Here's your solo quiz question: Anyone like to play?


6 comments:

Mark (Unklar) Dunk said...

Your post really caused me to stop and think. I've been in Second Life almost two years (8-7 is my rez date). During that time, I've never felt like the experience was a "game." Nevertheless, I did hear people at NECC09 often refer to SL as a game, even people I considered SL Educators. I realize that folks go into Second Life for a variety of reasons, but I have always tried to associate myself with people who are there for truly educational purposes.

The idea of a Special Interest Group for Second Life is great. The current offerings in SL for teaching and professional development and networking are growing daily. I can only imagine how effective and useful SL could become if organized attention was directed at enhancing these opportunities.

Thanks, Scott, for opening the door of discussion on this topic.

Anne said...

Scott, tx for your post. I'm an ISTE member but not an educator so probably not qualified to weigh in, but I agree that Second Life is no game. I'm frequently surprised by the way ppl mash up multiplayer games with virtual worlds. An outstanding new doc out of the Netherlands (which I blogged about here) makes no such distinction, as it looks at governance in Eve-Online, Lineage, Second Life, and Sims Online. As for ISTE, Second Life does seem to merit a SIG all its own, because of the reasons you give as well as its use as both educators' professional-dev't tool + educational tool in comparison to other VEs (hmmm, is WoW next?!).

PESD Techno Stuff said...

When I joined ISTE and had to choose a SIG, nothing really fit my needs. Had there been an SL SIG, that's what I would have chosen. If there were a physical place I could go to get the kind of professional support I get at ISTE in SL, I'd be there all the time. People talk about expanding their professional learning networks but in Second Life we can expand them far beyond state or country borders. Without Second Life, that could only happen at conferences I haven't been able to attend.

Malinda said...

My hat is off to Jennifer Ragan-Fore and everyone in Membership at ISTE for the insight and brilliance to start this presence in SL. By facilitating this opportunity to connect and learn, ISTE in SL has grown to nearly 5,000 members in three years. This alone is reason enough to start the SIG.

Scott, I have my pen in hand ready to sign the petition. So what are we waiting for? FAX me that document! Let's get this formalized and acknowledge the great group of people working and learning together in SL!

Bernajean Porter said...

On Sun, Jul 5, 2009 at 10:29 AM, Bernajean Porter wrote:
Just wanted you to know that your conversations at NECC about the SIGS were noted below - and I say GO FOR IT!!!

Letting you take the lead --- but here are some thoughts

I do wonder if it should be Virtual Worlds SIG rather than focus on a singular product (like having a powerpoint SIG, eh) - Quest - OpenSim and others along the way so that it might have enduring common purpose

Per the conversation below - I think we should advocate strongly for a separate presentation room given to the SIG team to organize mini-workshops on VirtualWorlds - we ought to have a premium spot this year - NECC09 was so tucked back and out of the flow . . .

I think ONE area might be labeled - welcome noobies -

and then very marketed mini-presentations having themes that would be listed like the vendor area letting you know the 2:00 show is __________. Also special stickers for any noobies who make NECC 2010 their entrance and avatar's birthday -

Re-organize us Scott . . . . I am behind you!

Jone said...

Scott,
I am a nurse educator in a hosptial/ faculty at a university. I am not a member of ISTE, but I plan to join. I am doing a pilot project with nursing students in Second Life for my doctorate. I have been in SL for a few months only, and just put an order in to purchase an island. I would love to hang out/network with others who use Second Life for educational purposes. I think it is going to explode in the healthcare world. Thanks for finding me on Twitter. I am really excited about my project and getting to know SL better. Jone