"There are two types of people in this world, those that believe people can be categorized into two types and everyone else."
I would consider myself in the latter group, however when it comes to discussing educational and student adoption (or lack thereof) in Second Life it seems that many fellow bloggers and researchers would rather segregate and divide users into two easy-to-explain groups. Educators and students. Gen X'ers and M Gens. Us and them. It's hard to believe that in this complex and diverse world that anyone can really think they can quantify such groups so easily.
If you travel across the country and speak with educators from very different geographical locations, in higher ed or K-12, with students from very different socioeconomic backgrounds you know that such categorization is simply not helpful. I've ranted about the so-called 'Digital Native' before, so perhaps you're with me on this. But hopefully, you can see the difference between learners in your own classrooms and conclude that grouping all-students-everywhere into one group and then making blanket assumptions about them would just seem silly.
Some recent online articles trying to make sense of education and student involvement in SL do just that however. I thought I'd take a quick minute to point out a few, their salient points and the views that seem detrimental to the continuing research in this area.
First, is "How we should encourage cheating in youngsters" by Roland Legrand over at the Metanomics blog. The article points out that students could be engaging in "'collaborative co-creation' using the internet-tools at thier disposal" and "challenging the underpinnings of education like it is organized now". I believe this sentiment to be very accurate, with educators encouraging such innovations by promoting such online tools as wikis, blogs, Facebook and more. However, he goes on to ask such questions as:
"So are these Millennials the perfect flexible, collaborative inspired
people who will transform society and the economy, and who will stream
into virtual worlds such as Second Life as soon as some virtual
evangelists make them discover those virtual environments?" (italics added)
And even quotes Feldspar Epstien's post in The Metavers Journal, Students vs. Second Life:
In Second Life, the gap between Generation X and the Millennial Generation comes sharply into focus (...):
1. Second Life is primarily filled with Generation X’ers,
unintentionally creating a socially unwelcoming environment for
2. Generation X’ers know how to play in the freeform manner that
Second Life requires, whereas Millennials typically do not display that
While this observation may be insightful and seemingly on que (with everyone else making such categorizations)... is it really helpful? It is true that the average age of the SL user is 30+, but even out of that demographic the percentage of actual Generation X'ers grows smaller with many users being older than the Gen X'er. It's also hard to say that they/we are "unintentionally creating a socially unwelcoming environment," as if all of Second Life was made of the SAME kind of environment. Also, I'd like to see something that says all Millennials do not display the skillset to play in a freeform manner. I know that some of my Millennial students do... some do not. Again, two types and everyone else.
Over at Second Thoughts, the post "Why The Kids Aren't Alright" sums up student users SL experience by looking at their Blog Hud posts, the amount of users on a virtual campus on a Friday night, and a theory of "boredom" reified by one of the student interns at Metanomics.
Most of all, he hated that he couldn't grief people. See, that's theViolent video games? Really? Give up and wait until the next generation comes along?
reality of this generation, and why we need to wait another generation
for virtual worlds to be used effectively, until the griefing impulse
is bred out of this current one, raised on violent video games, or at
least, until there is enough of an institutionalization of virtual
worlds that they are able to successfully restrain the griefing genes.
I can't say that there isn't reason to believe that certain individuals in the Gen M population don't like violence, even in my own experiences at BGSU. For example, last year Dr. Dena Eber held a student art critique in which two of her students 'crashed' (mildly greifed) the event by attending as horrific avatars. Since this was an art class the so-called griefing seemed appropriate, even performance like. This interpretation was reinforced for me when I attended the MUVE session at Siggraph last week in which Mick Brady (Chrome Underwood, Live Teams Manager at the Serious Game Design Institute) called griefing something like 'the most interesting and important thing happening in Second Life artwork'. (Please note that these were 2 students out of a class of 20... 10%. Imho, that's probably about the same percentage of student population that these articles are accurately referencing.)
Even AJ Tan, the intern at Metanomics whose blog post on boredom was referenced above, goes so far as to say:
In my experience, the demographic of Second Life residents is roughlyAs a thirty-something Second Lifer and educator, let me just say... I do celebrate the end of finals week. I'd also like to point out that not all of my students are drunks interested in keg-stands, bar crawls, and/or violent video games. AJ's post on his experiences in SL are a wonderful addition to this discussion however, we need to see more student blogs, responses, and polls in order to better understand what the 'students' are really getting out of SL; students of various ages, geographical locations, races, socioeconomic and technological backgrounds who may offer a wider range of analysis than the tech savy Gen M raised on violent video games.
in the mid- to late-thirties. For me, these individuals represent
“real” adults who do not celebrate the end of finals week or the
advertisement of a city-wide bar crawl.
I would also challenge those intent on changing education - are we creating socially welcoming environments? Are you providing your students with a platform for reward advancement, much like an mmorpg? (I see this as a typical letter grade approach really.) Or are you pushing your students toward freeform play in which information can be applied and developed into a product of learning achievement, much like the structure of SL?