Friday, February 10, 2017

Virtual Reality in Support of One's Mental Health

At La Digue du Braek in Second Life
In my volunteer life, I work with some of the brightest minds in learning and teaching. Serving this year as Chair of the International Society for Technology in Education's Virtual Environments Network (VEN) affords me at least weekly opportunities to actually meet with them. Scheduled meetups are on Tuesday evenings.

After a long day at a very demanding, often-times emotionally draining teaching job at a struggling inner-city school, meeting with these friends (and it seems there are new ones joining in every week), though they may be in New York, Colorado, or Australia--actually being with them, my Second Life avatar embodying my self--helps me relax and know my worth in the world.

Once a month, on the month's first Tuesday, friend Barbara Seaton leads a session called VEN Writers Group. We visit a "sim" that is evocative in some way, artistic, moody, and always creatively designed and implemented, soak our(avatar)selves in the ambiance, and each of us pens some creative writing piece around that experience. The following month we meet at our Second Life Headquarters and share our work by turns.

Last month, we met at VEN HQ, chatted together for a moment, then visited an amazing place modelled after a mixed beach-and-industrial location on the coast of France. I confess that I did not write my piece that night, but later, closer to the sharing meeting, I penned a poem after a particularly hard day at my teaching work. I can't share it here because it is a bit too dark and personal, but it will soon be among the writings shared at our group's website at http://venetwork.weebly.com. The picture above was taken there, and you may visit it in Second Life via this link.

For comparison after you visit in Second Life, see this video drive-through of the "real world" location.

On another Tuesday of every month, we meet for a VEN Focus Session, formerly a "Speaker Session" but more and more participative in the way of a field trip, often to other virtual worlds besides Second Life. Do you want to take a moment to view an archival video of this experience? It might just spur you to get your own avatar at http://secondlife.com and come and join us! Do!

Visit the VEN livestream archives to view one of 11 recorded live events.