What can Second Life offer to Art and Design subjects?

Recently I went to a couple of meetings where I got to know more about interesting approaches to use Second Life.  The first was a seminar organized by School of Education at the University of Leicester.  Mark Childs was the speaker who works as a Teaching Development Fellow at Coventry University. The title of Mark’s presentation was “Virtual food for real thought”. Then I attended the JISC CAMEL meeting recently. The CAMEL meeting was a cluster meeting that aimed to bring together the projects funded by JISC under the Curriculum Delivery strand and to share experiences. At the meeting, the ATELIER project by the Open University drew my attention. They used SL for creating collaborative working opportunities.

Mark’s presentation was really interesting. At the beginning of his talk, he summarised why use SL for teaching and learning. SL offers lots of potentials for subjects such as Art, Fashion and Design that involve design, development or creation. Mark introduced a case study designed by Nottingham Trent University, and conducted as part of the Theatre Design and New Media course at University of Warwick. In this study, students were taken through a series of Theatron and other theatres and asked to reflect on their experiences.

 The approach that the ATELIER project at OU used for their Design students belongs to this category. They designed activities in which students were instructed to design a chair individually, and then design another chair collaboratively. We also trialled a similar approach as part of our JISC funded MOOSE project. In MOOSE, we worked with a group of Digital Photography students at the London South Bank University. In this study, we adopted Virtual Story Cubes approach. Students were shown how to use snapshot and a variety of other tools to take stunning pictures in SL. They were shown how to create a cube, change the size of it, move it around and put the pictures that they had taken on each side of the cube. They then were asked to put their cubes together, negotiated the shape, order, which sides to show, and which sides to hide and tell a story of all their cubes.

Interestingly, I had a talk with my colleague Sandra Romenska (at BDRA) over lunch yesterday. Sandra is our research associate on CALF project. Sandra said that the students studying Dance at Falmouth were very interested in how they can make dancing movement in SL and how to use SL to advertise themselves as artists. This is a very interesting view and a very similar view to another group of student artists that I worked with. The Digital Photography students at the London South Bank perceived that one of the potentials SL can do for them is the possibility of running a virtual exhibition or gallery, the potential of attracting viewers from all parts of the world, and the possibility of gaining publicity, networking, advertising themselves as artists at a low cost.

In Mark’s presentation, he discussed other aspects that SL can really added value to teaching and learning, for example, to explore  and inhabit  spaces and resources, to bring people together for discussion, performance and language learning, to role play for being others and identity tourism for exploring self. Each of the area is very interesting by itself. I will reflect on the other areas in my following blogs.

Ming    22 May 2009

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