Friday, November 19, 2010

Experience in Second Life

Retrieved from Google Images
A few weeks ago I joined Second Life not knowing what kind of experience it would be. Since then, I have created an avatar and explored many places, chatted with people from Scotland, learned how to dance, and found many valuable resources that I could incorporate into the higher education courses I teach.

With all the new social medias available, many educators ask themselves, "How can I use this in my classroom?" or "Would this be appropriate for the students I teach?" Those were some of the same questions I had before joining Second Life. My background and experience is in special education. Currently, I teach courses to pre-services educators who want to be endorsed in special education. How can Second Life provide resources to the students I teach? I recently did a search on Second Life under the category of education and disability to see what I could find. I was pleasantly surprised at the resources available in this virtual world and how these places provided information for real world resources through URLs, blogs, contact information, etc. After I conducted a broad search on disabilities, I decided to search for information on specific disabilities such as autism, ADHD, multiple sclerosis, etc. Again, places I teleported to in Second Life provided accurate research, resources, and webpages on each specific disability.

I created a Landmark Card  listing and describing the locations in Second Life that pre-service educators could visit to learn more about disabilities. Some of these locations provide support and guidance for persons with disabilities and their families.

  • Assistive Speech Technology Research Labs - ASTR's mission is to explore the possibilities for people with disabilities through the research of speech technology. There are projects to view as well as a 3D Visual Scene on the balcony.
  • Virtual Halluncinations - The virtual hallucinations project seeks to educate people about the mental illness schizophrenia. By entering the UC Davis Simulation Center, you have the opportunity to experience how a person with schizophrenia feels.
  • Club Accessible and Accessible Builds - This club allows people with disabilities to dance and meet others with disabilites. It also provides accommodations.
  • MS Island Nederland - This island tries to have a positive influence on the well-being of people with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). There are links to research about MS, meeting spaces, and a dance club inside an elephant's belly. This island also has many other activities for persons to participate in.
  • Virtual Ability - Their mission is to help people with disabilities to enter virtual worlds and provide a supporting environment.
  • Healthinfo Island - This island offers several resources for people with disabilities to chat with others who have similar disabilities.
  • CF University - Cystic Fibrosis University - This is a campus that has resource links to information about cystic fibrosis as well as a memorial fountain dedicated to those who have lost the battle to this disorder.
  • Austim Awareness Center - HealthVillage - New York - This center offers facts, web pages, myths, and the history behind autism. This center has teacher resources such as how to set up your classroom, termininology, and a plethora of other valuable information on autism.
  • GimpGirl Community - GimpGirl Community's mission is to bring women with disabilities together in the spirit of support, positivity and inclusivity.  This place provides statistics on women with disabilities, resources, housing, support, and art.
  • The Center for Positive Mental Health - A place for support and discussion of anxiety, depression, ADHD, and other mental health concerns, managed by a psychologist.
  • On With Life - Located in Ankeny, Iowa, On With Life provides intensive rehabilitation for persons with a Tramatic Brain Injury and/or stroke.
I would love hear your thoughts on Second Life. Do you think teachers could use locations created in Second Life as an educational tool?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Expert Advisor Help

As you know from a recent blog, I am an expert advisor in The Flatclass Project for a group that is investigating virtual communication. I check the students' wiki daily for changes they have made; however, there hasn't been much progress. I am new to this experience and would like a student to reply to one of my posts so I know they are at least acknowledging the fact that I am here to assist them. Needless to say, I am getting frustrating with the lack of response.

If anyone else is or ever has been an expert advisor for a project such as this, could you please give me some suggestions to possibly increase the communication between me and students in my group?

Retrieved from Google Images

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Waiting for Superman
I just began reading the participant guide to the film Waiting for Superman, a documentary written by Davis Guggenheim about the American public school system. The clip below gives some of Guggenheim's reasoning in writing this documentary:

In this participant guide, the author states, "Our public schools haven't improved markedly since the 1970s" (p. 15). This documentary is supposed to provide reasons why schools haven't improve since 1970. Guggenheim provides five stories of students and their families who have their names in a lottery to attend "the best schools". Why are we making the assumptions that those schools are the only ones with effective teachers? I think that effective teachers are everywhere. As a society we have come to an unbeknownist conclusion that depending on where the school is located determines the effectiveness of the teachers inside that building. Does that really make sense?

In a current Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll it showed that 77% of public school parents graded their neighborhood schools with As and Bs (p.13). The poll then goes on to ask, "How about the public schools in the nation as a whole?" Eighteen percent graded these schools with As and Bs (p. 14). Do these stats confuse anyone else?

Do schools need to make improvements? Yes. Are effective teachers only in private, higher socioeconomic schools? No. How many parents are going to be misled about where effective teachers teach? How many parents are going to wait for their child's name to be pulled from a lottery so their education can be saved?

What are your thoughts on effective teachers and school reform?