Today is busy for me offline, so my plan is to see two sessions at beginning and end of the day. I’ll split those into separate posts to remain relatively timely.
The morning began with a talk by Susan Toth-Cohen (Zsuzsa Tomsen), “7 Years of Adaptation and Renewal in Second Life”. She has been using SL with her occupational therapy graduate students for that entire time. She began by talking about how she became involved here. She jumped in with both feet: quickly creating an avatar, joining the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), volunteering in-world, leasing a home base, and meeting others who were strong advocates for the possibilities of virtual worlds. She then began to talk about working with her students, mentioning the Diffusion of Innovation Theory and expressing surprise that the Millennials she taught were not so quick to embrace SL. (The Milennials I taught had never heard of SL until I did a presentation about it.)
Susan decided that she didn’t want to be walled off on a private campus, so she got a small parcel on EduIsland, open to the rest of SL, and said that the traffic was stimulating to her students. She took hundreds of classes in building and creating, used the framework on how to create powerful interactive exhibits from the Tech Virtual Museum, and discovered interactive tools like Holodecks. Her graduate students worked as groups to create and present research-based material in areas such as the Adapted Playground and the Garden of Healthy Aging.
The next section of her talk was about scholarship and faculty development in virtual worlds, as well as grants/funding and the difficulty of publishing work done here. (She specifically mentioned an article about the Garden of Healthy Aging being rejected because it lacked “behavioral outcomes”, which makes me think it could have been a great fit for something like Medical Anthropology Quarterly or a journal of another field that would value a discussion of the lived experience of using the Garden.) Susan emphasized that documenting the work she does in-world in other formats, YouTube videos and a blog, was essential for establishing it as legitimate scholarship.
All in all, very interesting. It reminded me of the difficulties I had getting Second Life research approved by my university’s Institutional Review Board (IRB). Though the university maintains an island in SL and has staff partially dedicated to working there, it was as if I was asking about doing research in Narnia. Eventually I rewrote my proposal so it didn’t require approval and moved on from there.