Friday, 16 May 2008

2.15 How do you think SL is perceived in the academic world?

The latest snapshot report on UK Higher and Further Education developments in Second Life is nearing completion; the report should be out in a few weeks. Here's the responses to one particular question, from academics who have been developing and/or using SL in their work.

• Generally a gimmick, though I think a few places who innovate are trying it out.
• Hatred of any new technology by those within a decade of retirement. They hate change, they hate having to learn anything new, and they just want a quiet life until they drift off. Unfortunately, these same people hold the power within faculty.
• Generally – with caution, the value of learning using ‘serious games’ and virtual worlds in general is being questioned.
• Varies considerably from fear and rejection, to healthy scepticism to evangelical enthusiasm.
• With much interest.
• Mainly with suspicion. To many lecturers, it simply looks too much like a video game, leading to negative assumptions. I am tired with people, and I refer mainly to senior academics, who are too idle to experiment with Second Life. Instead, they prefer to reinforce their incorrect prejudice. Many, I guess, don’t like it as it represents change or something different. Which may mean more work for them in the decreasing gap between now and when they retire. Personally, I wish they would all sod off; if they aren’t going to help our Second Life activities, then at least stop hindering them.
• Mixed - some people think it is a game and not serious others recognise its potential.
• I don’t think there is much informed awareness of either its potential or its limitations and, of course, there is bound to be a fair bit of concern about the less savoury aspects. The ability to run a private grid behind a firewall in due course may allay the concerns of some, albeit at some considerable loss.
• With enthusiasm and imagination by a minority, and with doubt, fear and even derision by the rest…
• Do you know how [expletive] off I am with people who, on being told about Second Life, respond with “Maybe you should get a First Life?” Like, they’re the first person ever to think up that devastatingly witty reply. Oh, how we laugh. Ha [expletive] ha.
• Has not had great exposure. We will have to be pushing to get SL out there....
• I believe there are three camps: (1) SL is the best thing since sliced bread, (2) SL has some interesting prospects for academia, but I’m not sure what exactly, and (3) SL? It’s just hype ... and it will go away.
• Enthusiasm by students and 20-somethings. Intrigue by those in their 30s and 40s. Suspicion and hatred by those from 50 and beyond.
• I think that Second Life has an enduring novelty factor. From my experience, it is only when academics actually enter the virtual world and spend some time there that they come to realise the massive potential for their students.
• Second Life is generally greeted with suspicion, wonder, ridicule, dismissal, hype, misunderstanding and excitement.
• It’s improving I think. It is often met with curiosity but most (I’ve worked with) are intrigued and questioning and interesting. Once they get the support after this intrigue (which is what I try and provide) then that interest actually often becomes a real SL project for them.
• It seems to be following the path of other innovations (e.g. at first windows was a nice toy).
• Very mixed perceptions.
• It's getting quite good press academically, it seems, and its popularity is growing.
• Probably still as unproven, and a bit geeky! But, some of the examples of great education ideas (simulations, small virtual economies, collaboration between students, displays of student work etc) are beginning to make academic colleagues more aware of the potential of SL.

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