Avatars, Virtual Worlds, and Social Networks
Social networks are virtual spaces where people of all ages can make contacts, share information and ideas, and build a sense of community. Like all technologies, they are built with tools that can serve many purposes.
When exploring online spaces, an avatar is a virtual version of you. You create a two or three dimensional representation that becomes your online persona. In real life I'm Annette Lamb. But in SL (Second Life), I'm Annette Olmstead (photo on left).
For those of you over 30, think of it as a really sophisticated paperdoll. You can change hair and clothing, add jewelry, and even hold things like signs and drinks. I carried a virtual candy cane around Second Life for a couple months last winter.
Check out my favorite Liddle Kiddle paperdolls from my childhood (on the right).
Access & Getting Started
Well-constructed social environments provide an excellent opportunity to model high tech learning in a safe online environment. In other words, experienced learners can share their experience with new learners.
Everyone has dreams of flying. When you were growing up, you may have invented a fantasy world, played international spy, or pretended you were on an African safari. Today's social technology provides a place for people to create virtual worlds where they can interact with others who share their interests. Students can explore models, go on virtual field trips, role play, and hold events such as plays and concerts.
- Young People
Join Second Life. You just need the free, no credit card version to do a little exploring. Simply follow the directions on the screen, download the software, and give it a try. Just follow the path and you'll learn the basic skills needed to explore the world. Your goal is to make it to the white building and teleport off the island.
Go to SLurl Wikispaces for lots of places to explore. Feel free to add your own ideas.
Read about ways that educators are connecting Second Life to school applications
MySpace is a popular online social community where people meet and share. Some students use MySpace as an area for making learning connections. For example, it's a place learners can get together and study or hold a discussion. It's also a place for making professional contacts. Unfortunately the clutter and distractions don't always make it the best environment to focus on learning. As a result, an increasing number of MySpace users are seeking other virtual spaces geared to more specific needs such as study or discussion.
- Young People
- imbee - popular with teachers who wish to create an environment to use with their classes
- EducationBridges.net focuses on teachers collaborating with teachers
Like MySpace, collection communities are based on a user profile. However instead of being geared to the general public, the focus is on people who want to share their personal collections. Members catalog their books, media, recipes, music, family stories; share reviews; hold discussions; and connect with others holding similar interests. The website has the atmosphere of community where members share resources and reviews, seek out others who share their interests, discuss their ideas. For instance, Footnote is a network for people interested in Original Documents. Users can blog, search documents, create their own pages, share photographs, annotate, and connect with others who have similar interests in historical documents.
- All Consuming is similar to LibraryThing
- myfamily.com - great for families
- LibraryThing - Annette Lamb's LibraryThing Profile and Catalog
Let's say children are reading the book Mud Soup by Judith Head. Students might all contribute a recipe to the project at the AllRecipes website. By tagging their recipe, they can search and find other recipes with the same ingredients or the same cultural background. They can become part of the global community, get parents and the local community involved, or simply share within a "private recipe box" area.
Join LibraryThing. It's great fun and you can enter a couple hundred books for free. For fun, check out the Children's Literature, Read YA Lit, or Made into a Movie group. Find a group related to your area of interest.
Background Skills and Issues
- Bandwidth is a problem with virtual worlds.
- Some high-resolution applications will not work with the data projector.
- Software must be downloaded for some applications such as Second Life.
- If you want to build objects in virtual worlds, you need some basic skills.
Security - Public vs Private
It's easy for young people and adults to get caught up in social networks and forget about security issues.
- Don't share private information
- Be conscious of the differences between your online and real-life persona
- Distinguish between those things that are public and private
- Safety Resources
Content Area Applications, Assignments, Assessments
This page was adapted from my online course High Tech Learning.