That’s me—Omotayo Collas. Actually, it’s my avatar in Second Life, the massive online social network that enables users “to interact with each other through motional avatars.” In this photo, I’m sitting in a place called Real Life Education in Second Life that provides, as the name suggests: “resources for real-life educators and real-life education in SL.”
I suppose I should have had a clue as to how popular this place was amongst Blackboard users the first time I logged in. The first person I wandered up to (out of the tens of thousands of people online at that very moment), after figuring out how to actually initiate a conversation, happened to be the spouse of a Blackboard system administrator from Wisconsin. We ended up talking about their upgrade to 7.2.
I realized that SL had tremendous potential to serve as a place to build communities of practice among educators. The community of Second Life educators has created listservs, wikis and even had an in-world Educators’ Workshop last year with nearly 100 participants.
I was a little bit more skeptical, though, about how it could be used for teaching and learning. But after talking with some friends and colleagues about its applications for education, I really think that we’re at the beginning of a transformative phase at the nexus of education and technology. What if you could take a mechanical engineering student into a virtual car museum and allow her to look inside a fuel cell vehicle? What if you could recreate the French Bastille in 1789 for a history major? And that’s just scratching the surface.
In-world and on campuses around the world, those “what ifs” are really starting to take shape into some pretty cool real world uses for education. There will be an all-day, in-world Second Life International Education Conference on May 25, 2007, and the Second Life Community Convention in Chicago, May 24–26, featuring an education track.
What will this mean for Blackboard? How will we interact with Second Life? That has yet to be determined. But as we delve deeper into this world, I’ll make sure to keep you posted.