I’ll be the first to admit that I struggle to find ways that Second Life may be used to convey and construct knowledge in ways that justify the cost of learning to navigate the world let alone learn to build in it.
So, when I find installations such as Maslow’s Hierarchy, a build described in The Educator’s Second Life, I am very glad to see creations that go beyond mere content distribution and move into creation of an experience for the visitor.
This installation is a walk through of the levels of Maslow’s classic model … literally. The learner starts at a basic ground level point (meeting physical needs) and literally walks an obstacle course to get to the self-actualization level in the sky. The course is not difficult, although I did find myself confused at one point since the path is not always clear, and the middle levels seem to blend into one another. Still, the idea of rising in virtual space as one ascends the pyramid hammers home the concept.
Fortunately, this installation goes beyond what many such educational builds do. Instead of just handing out note cards, the build does encourage some interactive participation … such as building a shelter out of Lego-like blocks and beating a drum with others in a Native American circle. By the time the participant reaches the top of the course, he or she is exposed to numerous tools used by educators to aid students in self understanding and reflection.
It is worth visiting this place, to begin to understand that the classroom can be stretched and expanded … an that the online course can contain experiences like this, which are not exact duplicates of what one might do in a physical classroom, but that can be used to increase understanding and retention beyond what can be achieved with mere words.