At the session yesterday we spoke a little about the need for students (and others) to have a positive first experience of SL. This came up more than once in the discussion and I agree it is very important.
Of course... it's an easy statement to make but it does rather assume that we know what positive means in this context. I’m not convinced that we yet understand well enough what people like about SL to be able to guarantee a positive first experience.
Thinking back, my own first experience was pretty negative actually. I found Orientation Island confusing and pointless. The very first words anyone said to me in SL were "You are ugly". Don't worry, I was big enough to take it on the chin :-). Anyway, they were right, I was ugly… and I had a big chin! I’d made a bad choice of first avatar and then hit the randomise button and not known what to do to recover! :-) Finally I left Orientation Island and went to some random location where I walked around in your typical kind of SL wilderness – virtual tumbleweed being blown across the scene would have completed the experience. To make matters worse, the only person I met ran away! :-)
So what turned the experience round for me? Well, it was four things really…
Firstly, I met up with someone I knew (Paul Miller as it happens) on the then very new Cybrary City sim. We chatted for a bit, and bumped into one or two friendly librarians that I didn't know. But overall it was a very welcoming experience.
Secondly, I realised that I could make my own tee-shirts very easily. And I found that giving away the results gave a nice warm glow.
Thirdly, I discovered scripted objects, building and the joy of generally wasting time in sandboxes (even when they are empty) and then blogging about it.
Finally, I realised that I liked adopting a different character - my in-world avatar. I liked the fact that I could speak as Art Fossett rather than Andy Powell. I know this sounds weird - but for me, it is part of what makes SL work.
In the meeting yesterday I tried to push the idea of 'building as pedagogy' in Second Life. Again, I'm on very thin ice here, since I consider myself to be a lay person in these matters, but bear with me. By building I really mean doing – so 'building an object', 'scripting', 'designing and making a costume', 'creating textures', 'running an event', 'putting on a play', 'role playing', 'making a video', and umpteen other things all come under the category of building as far as I'm concerned.
For me, a positive first experience is about helping people to recognise that building in SL is a key part of its fun. I think the same applies to learning in SL – it has to be centered around 'doing', not 'receiving'. As Babbage Linden said yesterday – SL is the Chemistry Set not the chemistry lecture.