5.12.2011

Experimenting with Second Life


My name is Pasi Vilpas and I work as biology teacher in Sotunki Upper Secondary School in the city of Vantaa, Finland.
Here I proudly present three videos as examples of the pedagogical approaches we have been developing for Second Life.
I´m having a gut-feeling that learning already in the closest future is going to be independent of time, independent of place and independent of teaching. But its going to happen very much on a social context.

It is important to remember that school and learning are two different things. I often get an impression that school is
the most important hindrance of learning these days!

In the autumn 2011 I visited Online Educa Berlin (THE LARGEST GLOBAL E-LEARNING CONFERENCE) where I gave a presentation about my experiences about teaching genetics in Second Life. I have built a huge 3D-model of DNA and an active gene to Second Life. Because it resides up in the sky, I call it the High Gene (cousin to Hygiene).

Here is a link to Online Educa Berlin article about my presentation:
http://www.icwe.net/oeb_special/OEB_Newsportal/flying-along-your-dna-the-study-of-genetics-in-a-virtual-universe/

By the way, I had a presentation in OEB-Berlin also during the 2015 conference. At this time my topic was "What Makes School so Resistant to Change? The Wittgensteinian Approach.".

Nowadays we in the Sotunki Upper Secondary School have two islands in Second Life, 3 ha each. In addition to these we have four so called sky levels. You are welcome to test drive our area at
http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Sotunki/39/99/149

Unfortunately most of the archipelago is realized in Finnish. But, step by step, we are building it for international use too, therefore also in English. The High Gene area is already in English and the learning pathway about the history of literature is on its way to be completely translated. If you happen to be a teacher, please, take your students for a test drive at the Sotunki islands with you!

You are able to reach the area only after the following steps:
1. Download SL software
2. Register
3. Make an avatar of your own.

Practically all the school subjects typical to the Finnish school system are present on our islands. Most of the teachers in our school have been experimenting with Second Life. We have an open-minded as well as a very creative work community.

One of the most central characters for our thinking and the Second Life project has been Esko Lius. He used to work in our school for several years but is now at an other school called Inno-Omnia experimenting with mobile learning.

We have had one professional SL-builder helping us during the project. She is Yolanda Hirvi from Metaverstas LTD. My own avatar name in Second Life is Atte Battitude (cousin to Bad Attitude).

We have got lots of both the monetary and the "spiritual" support from the Finnish National Board of Education. We have been extremely thankful for this!

We are experimenting in Second Life in search for new ways of pedagogy where the teacher´s role would be as small as possible. Instead of teaching, our goal is to let the students learn.

Until this we have been playing with Second Life for two years. Still, only recently, the area has begun to rise on its wings. It takes nine months for a baby to be born!

The work in Second Life has been extremely enjoyable and fun but also very time consuming. It has really meant learning by doing for all of us. The limiting factor has often been the lack of new ideas. It is extremely difficult to get free from the traditional conception of the "school as we know it". And there is no idea to transport classroom didactics into an environment like Second Life.

It has been a very healthy experience for a teacher to get thrown into the position of a complete beginner! Now the most of us do
understand very well how the students feel in the constant flood of new things to learn. It is good to keep in mind that we are learners, all of us!

During the couple of the recent years the Facebook has effectively educated almost the whole world to use the text based web-environments in communication. I am sure that the computer games are going to do the same to our relationship with the 3D-worlds. We in Sotunki try to get our infra-structure ready before the rush to the 3D-based school education in virtual surroundings is going to take place.

Here are three videos we have made about our work in Second Life. Please, use the headphones. The world of sound is an essential part of the experience.

1. The High Gene 2011



This is a huge 3D-model of DNA and an active gene in Second Life. A comprehensive video lecture and several informative but surprising sound files are included. Here avatars sing karaoke and dance the grammar of genetics. The place is probably the best biological "Language lab" ever! It refreshes the parts which other labs cannot reach! Please, go and exercise your face muscles! And enjoy learning! This area does not teach, it lets you learn! Here the virtual iPads and the Sky-tables are in active use. Exercise genetics on a magic carpet. Play spin the bottle genetics with your friends. This is an enjoyable learning pathway for you to test!

The area is free, open and in English. You and your students are welcome to test drive the world of genes at http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Sotunki/36/102/149. It is designed specifically for the students in upper secondary school but it is enjoyable for every other age group as well. On the frontline against ignorance follow the standards of high gene!

2. A short learning pathway about the Human biology 2010



3. Sight seeing at the Sotunki´s first Island 2010