Friday, August 22, 2008

More about this Blog.

As noted in the header, this blog is narrowly focused on using Second Life to teach biology. So I probably ought to explain my thinking. One of the problems in teaching biology is getting the students to under stand how the big processes in biology work, such as cellular respiration, photosynthesis, protein synthesis and for that matter evolution.

What attracted me to Second Life was not only the ability to build and texture objects and place them in an immersive environment but also the ability to link objects together and script them and so was born my sabbatical project to develop some simulations tools in Second Life that students could then experiment with.

For example in photosynthesis how about if students could uncover the relationship between light absorption and oxygen production for themselves, much like they would do in a laboratory setting. Or how about if they use working mock ups of lab equipment before doing the real thing.

There are other biology places in Second Life, for instance Max Chatnoir's Genome Island ( Max has done some really nice genetics work in Second Life and I have even taken my students there and Max has graciously served as our host. See the post about this on my general blog, The Force That Through.

As an aside, you will notice that some links are slurls, literally second life urls. These will take you to the Second Life map and if Second Life is installed on your computer you can teleport you avatar to the place in Second Life I am discussion. I will always show the whole slurl so you don't get surprised by one if you don't have Second Life installed.

So what sorts of things will I cover here? Obviously other biology sites and efforts similar to mine. Also as I fumble through scripting and try to build cool things and explore various aspects of SL's scripting language. So this is my place to get geeky. I am a photographer-OK I take lots of pictures-in real life and really love that I can use these as the basis for realistic textures so you will some of my texturing efforts.

I will cover Second Life Science events and hopefully throw in some interviews with more seasoned users of Second Life for education, of and maybe students(now there is a thought, ya think?). I will continue to blog about SL on my general blog, The force that through and on occasion on my Science Blog, Dangerous Ideas...but geek attack moments and scripting stumblings (all to common!) will be here now.

As absorbing as Second Life is to me and as much as I think it is a useful tool, it does have limitations. These become quite clear to anyone who has tried to visit a large online event in Second Life. I am really interested in what makes a good Second Life experience for Students and how do we figure this out?

Sometimes I wonder if Second Life is still waiting for a "killer app" or some technological breakthrough that will really get people excited. I get excited by the creative possibilities in design and scripting, but students want something that they can use quickly, they want structure and something where they can learn without lots of technical issues getting in the way. I think these needs can be met in Second Life but it is going to take really careful design borrowing from game design. It's a bit like the early days of the web when we didn't know a whole lot about web page design and now we are trying to work in three dimensions? Gaack!

By the way you can always look for me and visit my office in Second Life. The SLurl is


Hirt said...

I am so lucky to find your site. I am a biology teacher and I am looking to integrate my class into second life. Thank you!

Anne said...


I just found out about second life and was immediately struck by its potential as a biology teaching tool, like you were. Have you seen the Inner Life of The Cell video produced by Harvard BioVisions? ( Imagine if students could "fly" through this very cell, walk on microtubules, observe DNA replication in action. I am new to the online program, vast of an undertaking would it be to create a "cell-like" world in second life?

I'm currently a PhD student at Harvard, though I had nothing to do with designing the video. Reply if you're interested in talking? Or--do I have this right--maybe we could talk in second life?

Simone said...

Actually there is at least one cell model in SL at Genome Island but nothing as detailed as the Inner Life of the Cell. I am familiar with those videos and use them in my biology classes.

Look for me inworld...