Friday, August 3, 2007

What's the Big Deal with the Web?

There's an interesting article on the Newsvine about how Second Life with dwarf the web soon. I am not much of a Second Lifer, as I've said in the past, I need to catch up on my first life. Not only that but I keep coming across some things that make me go "hmmmm." For instance, I was trying to get to Kathy Shrock's place on the web and I ended up in some nudist party. I checked the location - and it was right, but technology messed up on the other end and I ended up in a dance I didn't want to be in.
However, there are many virtual worlds out there, and Second Life was not the first, nor will it e the last. Some of the images that Tom Clancy's Net Force Series bring to mind make me think of Second Life actually.
It wasn't the thought of Second Life though that really got me interested in the article. It was a comment later from someone tagged as "Deep Thought".

"Information actually lower down the list, as most people find it difficult to tell the difference between legitimate information and junk. Also, most people use the Internet in their spare time and tend to want to relax, not learn anything. MySpace, YouTube and Facebook are hardly educational."

I guess I'm one of those freaks that turn to the Internet for information. I remember the first time I was online. It was in an office, above a bank in Florence, SC. I was there to help this guy from college study for Biology - not my best subject but I was a lot better than he was. It was November 1, 1993. Why do I remember the date? Because River Phoenix had just died. That was the first thing I found out on the Internet, right there on Yahoo's main page. I actually read about more deaths online than I do in the obituaries- one section of the paper I try to avoid. At that point in time, the Internet became a fascinating place to find information on many topics. I hope I've learned over the years how to tell the difference between legitimate information and junk.
As a matter of fact, that's what most educators teach. They teach students how to research using the Internet, how to collaborate, and communicate. They teach how to remain safe, how to tell a good site from the bad, and how to decide which tool would be useful for them. And while MySpace, FaceBook and YouTube are not really educational, teachers have found ways to use tools like these to reach their students or to just get out of the hole of their classroom and connect with other educators from around the world, not just their own school/district.
But what's the big deal with the web? You can teach your students how to create a video without it, but how would they validate their hardwork? Not with a grade- that's so old school! Students can use Word without the Internet, create a PowerPoint without SlideShare, and so much more. Before the web they knew how to pass notes (the old fashioned text messaging and Twitter) and therefore knew how to communicate. We had encyclopedias, newspapers and other material to research from.
I'd say the big deal with the web is the ability to find more than one side or opinion on any given topic, communicate in REAL TIME with other students, upload and get feedback on something they created, and yes, even play a video game in a virtual world. Yeah, you can do without Internet (God Forbid!) for a workshop. There's always a work around. But in real life, that's where the students are going. Teach them the right way. Otherwise, borrowing a quote, "The Force can have a strong influence on the weak-minded. "
And if that includes proper behavior in a virtual world, then prepare them. Because while Second Life may not be THE virtual world in 10 years, they are becoming even more prevalent. While SL has a teen grid and an adult grid, your little students can even participate in virtual worlds with WebKinz, Nicktropolis, and even the newly acquired Disney site Club Penguin .
And those are just a SMALL number of virtual sites aimed at kids.
There are some other great comments on the article that started this train of though. The fact that virtual worlds has not caught on is because of the hardware limitations on current machines is probably a huge factor. My MacBook Pro does not like to run Second Life and I must restart right after if I do use it.
My thoughts have been interrupted again. Ouch. Between Twitter, the phone, email, kids on summer break, my other phone, and my parents - how can I handle a second life? And since I'm suppose to be working, let me just leave you with this final tidbit. If you're an educator interested in more on Second Life, check out Kathy Schrock, Discovery Educator Network, and ISTE for places to start.

1 comment:

Kathy Schrock said...

Not sure where you were visting in Second Life...could be the land I first rented which was in a "low rent" district, and now may be something else (kinda like Web pages that come and go!)

However, Lighthouse Learning Island, a collaborative project among four school districts, where we are going to hold professional development workshops this upcoming school year, may be found here:

Hope you wind up in the right place this time!

Kathy Schrock