Design of a Learning Activity in Second Life: Active Teaching of Social Educators

Design of a Learning Activity in Second Life: Active Teaching of Social Educators

Judith Molka-Danielsen (Molde University College, Norway) and Susan Balandin (Molde University College, Norway)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-517-9.ch007


Second Life™ (SL) is now an accepted platform for educational activities. SL supports a range of activities from informal meetings to complete courses offered in the 3D world as part of a university’s curriculum. Learning activities within SL can be identified as a form of e-learning that facilitates learning through the mediating artifacts of the technology. This chapter explores the use of SL using learning activities that are designed to activate students and to facilitate the creation of social activities within groups. The chapter uses the theoretical lens of Activity Theory to examine the operational mechanisms behind designing a course activity that engages people with lifelong disability in the active teaching of health professionals about disability.
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People with disabilities have criticized health professionals for having limited knowledge of the issues they face and for having patronizing attitudes (Balandin & Armstrong, 2001). If student health workers and practicing health professionals are not given opportunities to interact with people with disabilities and learn from them, they are unlikely to be comfortable interacting with this group of people. There is an identified need to involve people with disability actively in teaching and health service curriculum planning (Estrella, 2000; Knox, Mok & Parmenter, 2000). Lectures by people with disability help meet the educational needs of the students and workers within the helping professions and can be used to promote lifelong learning among disability workers in both primary- and specialized care (Lennox & Diggens, 1999). Yet little is known about the potential of different teaching mediums such as virtual worlds to promote interactions between people with disability and students who are training to provide a range services to this group of people.

Research into the efficacy of providing students with access to virtual guest lecturers has demonstrated that connecting students with virtual guest experts results in a number of positive outcomes for students, including increased levels of motivation and interaction (Kumari, 2001). This chapter presents an innovative design for a teaching activity for student health professionals. People with lifelong disability (e.g., cerebral palsy, autism spectrum disorder, intellectual disability) will record a series of lectures. Students will choose whether to view the lectures live during the recording process, on the web, or on a DVD. Students and lecturers will then be involved in a follow up reflection activity in the virtual world of SL. In this activity students will have the opportunity to discuss the lecture with the lecturers with disability and also to be involved in some social activities. These will be designed to provide students with an opportunity to interact with the person with disability while undertaking a new task jointly. In preparation for the reflection and activity sessions, the students and their supervisors who will participate also, require sufficient background information and practice to be able to interact competently with the technology that they will use. In this chapter we provide some background on the training of the participants in the use of Second Life as part of the learning activity. The case described in this chapter demonstrates one method of ensuring good practice for the support of lifelong learning and at the same time allows for learners to come into contact with individuals and groups who can contribute to the learning process outside the traditional “classroom” learning activity.

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