Friday, May 25, 2007

Underlying pedagogical assumptions (Editorial)

by Owen Kelly

I find it interesting the way different strands of different threads can come together sometimes in an entirely personal way and trigger off something else entirely.

For example:

  • People have been worrying about the right clothing to wear when appearing before your students in an SL class;
  • Mechthild Schmidt leapt on someone she thought might be commercialising Teen Sl, when I read the post as indicating that a bright teenager was using Teen SL to rehearse his life as an adult;
  • Kimberley Hampton has just wondered if anyone has "created a collection of workshop materials that address this topic, specifically how to teach in SL?" and would like to publish it;
  • Birdie Newborn has just challenged Chris Swaine, saying that "the underlying assumption of your argument, Chris, seems to be to corral Second Life into traditional guidelines" while she thinks that "SL offers wholly new potentialities".

These all tie together for me into a topic that concerns me: what kind of pedagogy does Second Life support, or (more interestingly) what will happen to pedagogy once it has been metaversed?

Almost everyone in SL is a prosumer in Toffler's sense of the word: their consumption and production are inextricably intertwined. This necessarily includes their part in the production of the comunal meanings that they in turn consume. This must be especially true of so-called virtual worlds like SL where the very existence of the world is a communal fantasy: an act of communal production that is at the same moment an act of communal consumption.

This means that everyone in SL is (to one extent or another) self-educating (we can throw in terms like micro-learning, informal learning, if you like) and that puts a large burden on almost all traditional notions of pedagogy. In a knowledge economy mediated by digital interfaces you should be able to claim prior-learning credits for all the PlayStation games you have become familiar with.

I have several specific reasons for raising these general points now.

1. We have just finished a project in SL called Semano Semano, which was a pedagogical experiment that I have documented in two interlinking essays here:

I would be very interested to have any reactions or comments either here or on the site itself. (Please note: I am not suggesting that our work is either interesting, important or right; merely that it is interesting and important to me and I would like to share it because I think it may be pointing in an interesting direction).

2. The fourth League of Worlds conference will be taking place in Sweden at the end of October (The first 3 were in Helsinki, Finland; Melbourne, Australia; and Boone, North Carolina. The fifth is scheduled to be in Mexico.) This conference arose from the kind of concerns that I am outlining here. If you are interested then you should find details at This year we are planning to hold a shadown conference in SL and I will keep the list up to date with news about that.

Both 1 and 2 are attempts to wrestle with the question of how pedagogy will radically change in a world of self-training prosumers (of whom our teenage entrepeneur from Teen Second Life might be a good example). I suspect that we ignore this question at our peril.

And I teach in outfits borrowed from Zorro or the Matrix depending on my mood :)

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