[iDC] Howard Rheingold on Education in SL

Trebor Scholz trebor at thing.net
Mon Mar 5 21:55:22 EST 2007


"I've lectured in Second Life, complete with slides, and remarked that I didn't really see the advantage of doing it in SL. Members of the audience pointed out that it enabled people from
all over the world to participate and to chat with each other while listening to my voice and watching my slides; again, you don't need an immersive graphical simulation world to do that.
I think the real proof of SL as an educational medium with unique affordances would come into play if an architecture class was able to hold sessions within scale models of the buildings
they are studying, if a biochemistry class could manipulate realistic scale-model simulations of protein molecules, or if any kind of lesson involving 3D objects or environments could
effectively simulate the behaviors of those objects or the visual-auditory experience of navigating those environments. Just as the techniques of teleoperation that emerged from the first
days of VR ended up as valuable components of laparascopic surgery, we might see some surprise spinoffs in the educational arena. A problem there, of course, is that education systems
suffer from a great deal more than a lack of immersive environments. I'm not ready to write off the educational potential of SL, although, as noted, the importance of that potential
should be seen in context. In this regard, we're still in the early days of the medium, similar to cinema in the days when filmmakers nailed a camera tripod to a stage and filmed a play;
SL needs D.W. Griffiths to come along and invent the equivalent of close-ups, montage, etc.

The one difficult to surmount obstacle is the learning curve. One figure I'd like to see is the number of people who create objects and environments in SL. That population is where the
innovations are likely to emerge.

I think the SL hype deserves debunking, but let's not set that debunking up as an eternal straw man. Who, exactly, is predicting that any percentage of the population will really live in
SL? (Someone who has lost a loved one to WOW?) To me, the point has long since ceased to be whether or not this is going to be as popular as solitaire, but whether some truly useful
innovation is going to emerge." 

More information about the iDC mailing list