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Doug Johnson's Tech Proof

Do You Need a
Second Life?

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Imagine walking into a library and simply talking to a librarian who walks through the library with you, pointing out the resources you needor taking an entire class to watch a glacier build and meltor attending a seminar with educators from across the world. All without ever leaving your classroom.

That and much, much more are currently possible in the 3-D virtual world of Second Life, accessed through your computer and the Internet.

When I first started hearing about Second Life, my reaction was the same as many of yours probably will be: My first life is so busy, how do you expect me to find the time to live a second one?"

Doug (aka BlueSkunk) Johnson relaxes in his Second Life home away from home.
Its a valid question, but Second Life and similar MUVEs (Multi-User Virtual Environments) have enough educational potential that all educators ought to at least take a look at these exciting new worlds.

In this column, I will give you a short overview of what Second Life is, and some steps for getting started exploring the world. In next months column, well take a look at some places to visit in Second Life and explore what pioneering educators already are doing there.

Second Life is one of a number of Multi-User Virtual Environments that a growing number of adults and children are using for recreation, business, and education. In a MUVE you see a graphic representation of yourself walking around a computer-generated world that looks realistic. There, you can see, interact, and communicate (via chat) with other MUVE users. You can own real estate, purchase items, and even start a business. You can do everything -- well, nearly everything -- that you can do in RL (real life). A list of MUVEs, along with their descriptions, can be found at TechSoup.

The best way to learn about Second Life or similar environments may be to just jump in. While there is no cost to participate at a basic level, your experience will be better with a fast computer and a good Internet connection.

Go to Second Life, download the client software for your computer, create an account, and log in.

Once you are in the world, you will start by creating an avatar, your character in Second Life. Read the introductory guides and then stroll or fly about. For those of us who like our information in print, theres the Second Life: Official Guide (Sybex, 2006), but there is a complete Knowledge Base" on the Second Life Web site.


Want More?

Want to read more about Doug and his thoughts on library media and technology? Visit his Web site or browse his new blog. Got a compliment, a complaint, or just a comment to share? E-mail Doug at [email protected]

One of the best ways to get a friendly introduction to this strange new world is by making a friend whos willing to give you a tour and answer your questions. ISTE hosts a social on Thursday evenings at 6PM Pacific Coast Time (also Second Life Time) at the ISTE Skypark. Most locations are easily found by using the search engine built into the program and then teleporting" to that location.

While there is a large commercial presence in Second Life, educators are beginning to take advantage of the medium as well. And that is what this column will explore next month.

Be warned: Yes, Second Life has an "adult" side to it. Yes, it is crash prone, slow and unreliable. Yes, there is a steep learning curve to creating content for it. Yes, it sounds just like the WWW of about 10-12 years ago. (Doesn't anyone else remember Mosaic and three-minute page re-draws?)

Unfortunately, many of us can't quite reconcile "fun" and "useful." Every time I've gone into Second Life, I've really had fun and I wonder if anything that enjoyable can possibly be good for a person. It's my inner Puritan.

But these three dimensional worlds may well be the next incarnation of our interface with information and others online. Gartner Group predicts that 80 percent of all Internet users will be using a form of MUVE by 2011.

My avatars name is BlueSkunk Johnson. Fly over and say hi" if you see me!

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08/07/2007