Meeting Other Teachers in Virtual Worlds - a Brief Get Started Guide
I write this post with the aim of providing some simple, brief, specific steps for teachers who are curious about virtual worlds, not for students (in this instance!), but for teachers.
I suggest you 1. read instructions below and get up and running RIGHT NOW and then 2. attend the Newbie session on the 5th of May 2010.
All you need to know to benefit from a virtual world as a teacher are these basics:
A virtual world is a 3D online space that you can see on your computer screen and move through by walking or flying around. "You" are represented by a walking figure on the screen - a figure whose appearance you can change and adapt, and this representation of 'you' is called your 'avatar'. As you walk around the world you can see other people (in the form of their avatars), you can text chat with them, sometimes voice chat with them (with a headset).
The benefits of bothering are:
1. You can network / conference / connect with / share ideas with / debrief with colleagues in rich and psychologically compelling environment, from the comfort of home.
2. Plenty of teacher conferences are held in a virtual world, and the best face to face conferences run a parallel conference in a virtual world - i.e. the speaker broadcasts their voice through a microphone to the people in the physical room with them, and into the virtual space too. This means you can attend conferences you have neither the time, money, or approval to attend in real life, from home. And if it's boring you can unplug! (Can't do THAT at a face to face conference!)
In particular, there are lots of unConferences - an unconference is a get together of teachers where anyone who wants to can share what they've been up to. It's a conversation rather a presentation, on the assumption that we are all experts through virtue of practical experience! Why learn from one official expert when through conversation you can pick the brains of many?
3. It's a heck of a lot of fun.
So let's get specific - what to do if you want to dip your big toe in?
There are various communities of educators in 3D environments, but for simplicity let's look at "Jokaydia", and how to access Jokaydia.
STEP 1; First, go to the Second Life website and click join now - you'll get an account and a chance to download the Second Life program, which is what you use to go into the 3D world.
STEP 2; When you run the Second Life program for the first time you get taken to a tutorial space where you can learn the basics of moving around in the world. To finish the tutorial you end up leaving the tutorial space by 'teleporting' to the 'mainland'. Once you've done that, you're free to go where you want.
STEP 3: To get to "Jokaydia", either do a search for Jokaydia from within the Second Life program, or just click here: SLurl: http://slurl.com/secondlife/jokaydia/108/159/23
Jokaydia is a series of islands built by, and frequented by, a bunch of motivated educators, especially from Australia. Drop in, and you may well find people there - approach them and type in "hello I am new here!" and see where things go from there!
Jokaydia was and is pioneered by educator Jo Kay for whom I have profound respect and admiration. Now that you have access, have a look at upcoming events: http://jokaydia.com/jokaydia-events-calendar/
You'll see there is a "Newbie Session" on Wednesday the 5th of May 2010 - this would be your perfect opportunity to get basic advice and make some contacts!
There are also plenty of other events coming up, including an 'unConference' you can attend later in May.
For the record, 'Second Life' is not the only virtual world system, and Jokaydia exists in other virtual world systems too. It is pan-dimensional!!! There is "ReactionGrid" and also "JokaydiaGrid" - both easy to access, and functioning very very similarly to Second Life. Jokaydia Grid in particular has the advantage that you can take groups of students into the space, for free! No rush at all, but if/when you're ready, there are instructions for accessing these worlds here: http://jokaydia.com/venues-and-resources-on-the-islands-of-jokaydia/jokaydia-reactiongrid/ (for Reaction Grid) and here: http://jokaydiagrid.com/signup-for-jokaydiagrid/ (for Jokaydia Grid).
This is easier than it sounds - it's like belonging to multiple websites... this is multiple virtual universes!
Also checkout http://wiki.jokaydia.com/page/Main_Page for much more information!
See you in there!