Creativity in Second Life: Educator’s Panel

Educators Panel Closing Plenary

The final panel session for the NMC’s Symposium on Creativity in Second Life was wonderful!  Chaired by Alan Levine (CDB Barkley), it involved a diverse range of educators involved in Second Life, reflecting about the week’s sessions and creativity in SL in general.  Educators included:

  • Lori Bell (aka Lorelei Junot), Alliance Library System
  • Jo Kay (aka Jokay Wollongong), Illawarra Institute TAFE, New South Wales
  • Hilary Mason (aka Ann Enigma), Johnson & Wales University
  • Troy McConaghy (aka Troy McLuhan), ISM Corporation
  • Nick Noakes (aka Corwin Carillon), Hong Kong University of Science & Technology
  • Beth Ritter-Guth (aka Desideria Stockton), Lehigh Carbon Community College
  • Angela Thomas (aka Anya Ixchel), University of Sydney

Despite issues with sound, we managed to combine both text and sound to do this reflection.  Alan blogged details of the session here, including a podcast and a chat transcript.  I had to do my bit by text instead of voice (luckily I was last so I hastily converted the speaking notes I had into close to proper sentences while other people were talking).  Some of the comments seem to have been truncated in the transcript though, so, for anybody interested, I am including my notes (and they’re a bit messy!) under the fold.
Educators Panel

I just want to start off my 5 minutes here by reflecting on what it was like to be a presenter at this conference.  I have to be honest here, because when the call for papers/sessions went out, I read it and even I was challenged by it, wondering what, if anything, I could contribute.  Some of you will know that I teach students about role-playing communities, I do a lot of work around ideas of play and innovation and the value of including it into the curriculum, and I spoke at the NMC summer conference in June about the ideas of play and participatory culture.  But when Alan sent out the call for papers for this symposium, he emphasized, stressed, bolded and underlined that we should avoid lecturing, avoid powerpoint presentations, and do something practical and creative.  I think its just so easy now for us to think about presenting at a conference in a certain way (i.e. us doing all of the talking in lecture mode) but unfortunately that means its also easy for us to fall into the trap of being very dull and non-creative!  But if anybody can nudge us along and out of our comfort zone and into innovation, its definitely the group of amazing staff and presenters here.

Because I was involved in this symposium, I spoke to people I’d barely spoken to before.  Because I was involved in this symposium, I worked collaboratively with people I’d never had the opportunity to work with before.  In the lead-up to this symposium, I questioned my beliefs about pedagogy, I talked about my beliefs with others, I explored the amazing spaces that other people had created, I built some cubes, I made a book, I discovered some incredible new International fashion houses, I EVEN edited a script.  I spoke with several fashionistas about the hot new fashion trends, I spoke with an amazing avatar artist who very generously gave me free samples to give away.  I explored my friend Laura’s fictional world of author Gloria Raynor’s book “Mama Day”, a world about “how a young African-American woman, Cocoa, comes to terms with her powerful ancestral legacy” and I looked at how Laura had found new and powerful ways to immerse her students in Cocoa’s story.   I visited Boracay and was astounded by the web 2.0 applications he had discovered could interface with Second Life, and sent my first inside-SL tweet to twitter.  I watched Robbie Dingo’s incredible machinima that reinterpreted Vincent Van Gogh’s painting and felt in awe of his incredible talent.  I listened to Larry’s inspiring opening remarks… and I thought, what a privilege it is to be a part of this!

I hope that people attending my sessions will go away thinking about the value of play, the value of role-play, and the value of creating fictional worlds in which to explore real issues: about culture, about society, and about ourselves. 

Many educators are both fascinated and frightened by the possibilities of embracing play, within a rigorous educational context.   Play can provide a context which allows for the cognitive and creative freedoms associated with open-ended experimentation and creativity.

One of the things I think is most important for education is to empower our students. And by empowerment I mean teachers working with students collaboratively for the creation of power. Transformative pedagogy refers to interactions between educators and students that foster that collaborative creation of power.  I think by giving students the space to be creative and to work with us in our SL endeavours we’re giving them opportunities to become empowered.

I was talking over these ideas with my colleague Kim, who I presented a session with about “playful pedagogy”.  We had no idea what shape our drama would take – we could set up a few structures and guide them along, but the way it developed was completely dependent upon participation.  In thinking about our role as educators and presenters here, we felt we were practicing what we preached – you know, not sage on the stage, but guide on the side.  I said this to Kim and he said no, we’re not the sage on the stage, or the guide on the side…. instead… we’re the meddler in the middle. 

So my new saying is: “Teaching is about knowing how to meddle just enough to empower students, to inspire them and to foster creativity.”   You give them some tools, stir them up, get them passionate about something, stir them up some more… and then suddenly they’re the ones teaching you. 

Second Life: avatars, role-playing – it’s already a space where the possibilities are only limited by our imagination.  I suspect that transformative pedagogy begins with us and our abilities to change and try out new things – let’s shake up our pedagogy as much as we can and find more ways to be as creative as possible.

4 thoughts on “Creativity in Second Life: Educator’s Panel

  1. The implications are amazing, but when we consider how much fiction we bring with us into virtual worlds… how virtual are the worlds when compared with the real world? That, of course, cannot be answered – very subjective – but the key to much of the experience people have at a monitor is related to what they bring with them.

  2. Lovely post! Your conclusions about teaching remind me of Carl Rogers’ theories of Experiential Learning (for a synopsis go here: http://tip.psychology.org/rogers.html).

    An SL friend of mine, The Sojourner (yes, her first name really is “The”!) has a group of stroke survivors called Shockproof, on the Dreams sim. That group has all kinds of fun, holding contests for who can build the best treehouse, waterfall, or Mardi Gras float. They also hold a fair and invite all of the non profit groups in SL to take a free booth and let people know what they do. A LOT of learning takes place in this atmosphere of fun as people re-connect with their lives (second AND first).

    I am the co-CEO of an SL fashion model school called the MODA Modeling school (http://MODAFashionSL.blogspot.com) We see people’s confidence shoot up as they master the technical skills of improving appearance, creating poses and taking pictures. And the lessons spill over into real life . . .

    Licentious

  3. Pingback: Education in Second Life « The Grid Live

  4. Thanks to both of you for commenting! It’s lovely to see new faces appear here🙂

    Nobody – you said “but the key to much of the experience people have at a monitor is related to what they bring with them.” – and while I understand what you’re saying, one of my arguments has been that the stimulation and inspiration through working and playing with others is what can take us from one place to another. Some of us (like me!) need a nudge to achieve more than we knew was possible.

    Licentious – many thanks for your comments. I’d love to hear people’s stories about that spill over of confidence into “real life”. I collect them🙂 So if any of your students feel like sharing, please send them my way.

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