Saturday, July 25, 2009

Teaching midwifery students in Second Life

Yesterday I had my first 'teaching' sessions with midwifery students as part of the Second Life Education New Zealand project. The sessions were based on the second learning activity that has been designed for junior midwifery students which you can learn more about in Wikieducator.

Suffice to say, there are a number of lessons I have taken out of those two sessions about teaching in Second Life.

Who turned up
The two sessions were repeated to suit everyone's time needs. At the first session I had two students from Otago Polytechnic, although one dropped out for technical reasons. Leigh Blackall also came along for most of the session. In the second session I had three students come along from CPIT. All the students had headsets and were able to use the voice mode once I had explained how to use 'talk'.

What I had to teach students about Second Life
Before we started I gave brief explanations about communication - how to use instant message, use local chat, teleport and find a friend. One thing that cropped up as we went along was how to make a landmark and manage that in their inventory.

One anxiety students had was getting lost, so we looked at how we could set the birth unit as their 'home' so they could always return there in a rush and start there whenever they log into Second Life. The students had a few problems making the birth unit their 'home', so I need to go back to the technology and make sure they are able to do that.

The first session
In the first session we went to the TLC Babies Maternity Pediatric Clinic which is owned by Contessa Marquez. Contessa very kindly allowed us to look at her birthing and examination rooms. She also had a quick chat with us about the types of people she 'works' with - she said that many women who role play pregnancy and birth in Second Life are women who cannot have children in real life. I appreciated being able to interact with someone as opposed to just wondering around, looking at walls.

We then went to Tempora Island. It was very busy which slowed down our connections quite considerable and I eventually crashed and had to re-boot my computer, which took at least five minutes. We had a look at hospital in Land of the Long White Cloud and ended up at the
Inspire Space Park.

All this took an hour and we didn't have time to do any discussion. So the plan was to continue the discussion on our group Facebook page.

The second session
The second session was a lot easier. I was feeling more confident and all the students took to the technology very easily...from my point of view. I skipped Tempura Island this time and just focused on the other three places. However, even this short tour took an hour so we didn't get much discussion done.

Lessons I learned about 'teaching' in Second Life
  1. If you are new to Second Life as a teacher, have someone with you who can help out until you grow more confident in your abilities. I am still learning about Second Life myself so found it really useful to have Leigh with me to support me.
  2. Check that the places you have visited in the past are still available. I wanted to visit several maternity clinics that I have visited before, but they could not be found.
  3. Arrange the visit with the owner so you can meet them (hopefully) and they can describe their place and interact with the group. I think there is nothing more boring than looking around empty buildings like virtual hospitals and there is no interaction, especially social interaction. My opinion is borne out by this feedback from nursing students carrying out a similar exercise to us.
  4. Don't be ambitious about what you want to achieve. Visiting three places in one hour was as much as I could manage...and that was with a small group. If you have a bigger group, it would be even more difficult.
  5. If you are facilitating a large group, it is essential to have someone else help you, especially if the members of the group are newbies and you have to sort their technical problems as well as 'teach'.
  6. If members of the group cannot hear audio, have someone with you who can type what you say. I could not focus on speaking as well as typing...thanks to Leigh for helping me with that.
  7. Avoid popular places at times when you know they will be busy because this slows down your connection.
  8. Make contingency plans with students so they know what to do if you crash and leave them alone for a period of time.
  9. Make sure students know where/how to find you when they first log in.
Final reflections
I really enjoyed taking the students around but was disappointed that we didn't get to do much discussion. I look forward to hearing what the student have to say about things so far. My final word to myself is to be very organized with what I do and say, and make sure I am as prepared for eventualities as I can be.

If you use Second Life for education purposes, what advice or tips would you pass on to teachers interested in using it as a teaching tool?


Trudy said...

Thanks Sarah - that was a very helpful posting. We are trialling the use of Second Life and will be holding our first session with students in the coming weeks so I appreciated the links back to the wiki for further information.
Cheers, Trudy

Sarah Stewart said...

Thanks for dropping by, Trudy...glad I could help. Let me know how you get on with your students & what your tips would be.

What are you planning on using Second Life for?